As the COVID-19 pandemic becomes all too real, many of us are transitioning to teaching remotely. This offers a serious challenge to all educators, especially music teachers.
While this is by no means an exhaustive list, here is a list of some of the resources that I am using in my new online "classroom."
I don't think it's a surprise to anyone that this is going to be at the top of my list for allowing students to explore music technology in my classroom and at home.
I've been using the updated version of my Chrome Music Lab Task Cards to guide my students' exploration. These cards have a Bit.ly link that take students to the experiment they need to complete each of the tasks.
2. Treble Clef & Bass Clef Worksheets
These free worksheet allows students to label the lines and spaces on the treble staff, and also create their own mnemonic device for the order of the lines and spaces!
My students always make me laugh with all of the different phrases they come up with to help them remember the order of the notes on the staff.
These reading selections are great for having your students learn about some of the great composers. Each worksheet has a set of questions to help guide the reading and comprehension of the reader.
Dice Composition is an awesome way to have students create their own rhythmic compositions.
Students roll dice to decide what rhythms to create their own eight measure compositions.
This set contains three worksheets of varying levels.
Musicplay Online is an amazing online resource for music education. This site is the creation of the amazing Denise Gagné.
What's even better is that due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, students can log in for free through July. To log in, use username "snow" and password "2020."
Let’s be honest, one of the amazing things about being a music teacher is that we get to see so many students in one school day. By doing this we are able to make a difference in the lives of hundreds of students in a single day, which if you ask me is absolutely amazing.
Unfortunately, we also need to be aware of letting one class’s behavior affect us after they’ve left our classrooms. It can be so easy to let one class put you in a funk and to carry that with you when the next class comes in for their music lesson. I’ve done it for sure. It can be hard to give each class the best of ourselves when we just got done with a particularly rough class before they entered the room.
However, for the sake of our students (as well as our own sanity), we need to make a conscious effort to start fresh at the beginning of each class and not carry the stressors from earlier in the day change the way we make music with our students.
This isn’t easy. I’ll be the first one to say that I’m sometimes not able reset. I’m definitely guilty of carrying over some stress from the previous class, and it rarely goes well.
So here are a few of the ways that I regroup between classes to make sure that I am always in a good headspace for my students.
Write Down a Positive Moment
Even in the roughest of classes, there will likely be at least a couple of moments that are positive. Maybe it's a quiet student that is finally trying to sing. Or maybe one of my students who has experienced a lot of trauma was able to make it through the entire class without needing to take a break.
Even in the worst moments, there are likely gems of magic that are happening too. Not only is this a great exercise after a particularly rough class, but it’s also an incredibly healthy way to view the class as it’s happening. I’ve found that it's a lot easier to make it through a difficult class when you are looking for the positive moments.
After the students have left and the dust has settled, take some time to think about why the lesson flopped. Had the students been testing all day? Were they not in the right headspace for what you tried to do? Was it too simple or too difficult? Did you give your students the tools they needed to be successful?
Take some time to think about whether or not anything was wrong with the lesson itself, or maybe it was just a problem in timing. Look at the entire lesson and see what was successful and what could have gone better. Take a look at the sequencing and make sure that you've given your students the tools that they need in order to have been successful with the lesson.
Take a couple of deep breaths. Take a moment of mindfulness and try to relax a little bit. If, like me, you don’t have any time between classes, you can even have your students join you.
Mindfulness is something that our students need to practice as well. If you need to take a moment and breathe and listen to music at the beginning of class to reset, then have your students join you. This can also be incredibly beneficial for our students as they transition into the music classroom.
There is a great episode of the Music Teacher Coffee Talk podcast that is all about mindfulness in the music classroom. I highly recommend giving it a listen if you want to learn more about how you can implement mindfulness into your classroom.
We've all been there: you spend an hour on a lesson and are so excited to finally get to share it with your students. You prepare all of the manipulatives and resources and jump right in with your students. Then the worst happens: the lesson completely flops.
There's nothing quite as unnerving as realizing the lesson you've worked so hard on isn't being received by your students in the way you had expected. It happens, and it stinks. It can be such a nasty blow to our confidence, and we begin to second guess everything.
Unfortunately, this is all just part of the gig. Lessons fail. Sometimes lessons fail for things that have nothing to do with you. Sometimes the deck is just stacked against you. It is what you do after the lesson that really matters.
Take some time to remember why you teach, and work as hard as you can to leave one class’s behavior stay in that class and not bleed into the next!
When it comes to finding a music teaching job, especially if you are fresh out of college, you should be doing everything you can to set yourself apart from the rest of the applicants.
Unfortunately, most (if not all) districts these days use digital hiring systems and phone screenings that can make it hard to move into the in-person interviews. If you end up making it in front of an interview panel, that's your first clue that you are doing something right!
So now that you made it to an in-person interview, what can you do to continue to make yourself stand above all of the other applicants. One simple way to do this is by having a music teaching portfolio.
There are so many reasons why a music teaching portfolio will help set yourself above the crowd in the interview process. Here are a few of the most important reasons.
(Want my FREE Music Teaching Portfolio template? Click here!)
1. You Should Already Bring a Resume Anyway
Common sense interview etiquette includes bringing an up-to-date resume for the interview panel to read and reference during the interview.
Yes, you already submitted this with your application, but having extra copies with you not only show that you are planning ahead, but it allows your name (and experiences) to once again be right in front of the people making the decisions.
So if you already need to bring a resume, why not put in a (tiny) bit more effort and bring a music teaching portfolio that has your resume in it?
2. It Allows Your Letters of Reference to be Read Again
While members of the interview panel probably won't be reading all of your recommendation letters word-for-word, they will probably at least give it a skim.
I've had people that were interviewing me tell me that being able to see these letters of recommendation (especially if they weren't privy to them before the interview) allowed them to focus-in their questions to really get to know who I was as an educator.
3. You Get to Show Off Your Lesson Plans
You know all of those lesson plans that you made in student teaching? Yeah, the ones that hardly anyone even looked at other than you? It's time to dust them off, give them a little extra polish, and show them off!
Chances are that you already have so lesson gems in your proverbial toolbox! Now is the time to share these lessons, and the thought process behind your sequence (hint: mention that you have a sequence) and planning.
4. It Gives YOU Something to Reference
Here's a pro tip: If you are able to answer a question and refer back to your portfolio, that's a plus. It shows you have really thought ahead and aren't just pulling answers out of thin air.
This can also be really helpful if you are nervous during an interview, as you know that you have answers (and evidence supporting these answers) already prepared in your portfolio.
5. You Get to Leave Something Behind
Now I'll be the first person to say that I got some disagreement from other teachers and friends that were applying for jobs when I started to do this.
You should be leaving behind a teaching portfolio after every interview. Now you don't need to (and really shouldn't) leave one behind after one of those screening interviews, but if you are face-to-face with a principal and/or an interview panel, leave a copy.
I mean, why wouldn't you? This gives the committee something to reference back to you and your experiences, all while giving the ability to read more when they have more time after you leave. I have had someone that was on the interview committee for my current job that has told me that this totally set myself apart from the others.
Don't spend a lot of money on these portfolios. I just used one of those plastic report covers from Amazon and printed my portfolio on regular paper (in color).
If you are serious about getting a music teaching job, you truly need to make sure that you shine above the rest of the applicants.
Using a music teaching portfolio is an easy and incredibly beneficial way to make sure that you are memorable and professional.
Ready to make yours? Click here to grab your FREE music teaching portfolio template!
One of the hardest things about teaching is trying to make the most out of the instructional time we have with our students. One of the easiest ways to do this in a meaningful way is to create a scope and sequence for each grade.
Starting at the End
There's no way you are going to be able to properly sequence your lessons if you don't have a clear set of goals for each grade to meet by the end of the year.
When I was developing my overall scope, I made a list of all of the rhythmic, melodic, and other concepts that I wanted my students to be able to understand at the end of the year.
Once you've created your end goal, now it's time to work backwards. I divided a piece of paper into each of the months we are in school and then filled in things like concerts and other special things that I know happen every year.
I then worked backwards from the end of the year and filled in the concepts and composers that I wanted to teach spread out across the year.
Make sure that your sequence builds upon itself. For example, if you want your students to be able to notate the rhythm to a known song using Ta, Ti-Ti, and Quarter Rest, then you want to make sure the students are able to have time to work with just Ta and Ti-Ti before adding in a rest.
Let it Evolve
This scope and sequence will change. It'll go through many iterations as the year goes on. But that is totally fine!
You want your curriculum scope to be flexible so that it can be adjusted to better fit the needs of your students. Depending on your students, you might need more time on a specific concept than you thought. Conversely, your students might be ready to move on to the next concept sooner than planned.
This is fine. Let your scope and sequence evolve to best fit your students.
Don't try to force a sequence on your students. Instead, let the sequence ebb and flow in a way that empowers your students to be active music-makers.
A few weeks back I went live on Facebook with the amazing Katherine Miller. We shared a few of our favorite ways to use technology in the music classroom.
Are you trying to implement technology in your classroom, but don't have access to a lot of devices? Don't worry. During the free e-mail challenge, we'll share some great ways to implement technology with whatever devices you have.
There are so many apps that can be helpful for piano students in and outside of each lesson. I've tried a lot of different apps in my own experience as both a piano student and teacher, and I've gathered a few of my favorite apps that I recommend to my piano students.
According to Google, Chrome Music Lab is "a website that makes learning music more accessible through fun, hands-on experiments."
If you were to ask me, I would tell you that Chrome Music Lab is one of the easiest ways to allow our students to explore music composition and the science of sound.
Each of the 13 different "experiments" cover different areas from harmonics, oscillators, to color-based composition. What makes these experiments extra awesome is that they are entirely free and web-based, which means you don't need to worry about installing any apps!
I've used Chrome Music Lab in a few different ways. When I first started using these with my kiddos, I projected it onto my interactive whiteboard and we worked as a class to create a composition using the Song Maker experiment.
That being said, my all-time favorite way to use Chrome Music Lab in my classroom is as a center. I unfortunately don't have 1:1 devices in my classroom, so when I am able to reserve Chromebooks or iPads, it's usually just a few.
I use centers in my classroom for a lot of reasons, but the biggest reason I use them is to allow me to work with smaller groups to help differentiate my instruction.
I like being able to leave these task cards as a center because it allows my students to work through each card without them needing my help.
Let's be honest, if you've tried centers before, you've probably had at least one day where you ended up spending the entire class helping students in centers rather than working with groups individually.
All students need is an iPad, Chromebook, or other web-enabled device. Point a QR code reader (already installed on most devices) and each card brings up the appropriate web app! No set-up required! Just print and go!
I also absolutely love using the Spectogram experiment, especially with my younger kids. It's a great way to show melodic contour, and I love that you are able to use the microphone on your device to have my students make their voices go high and low.
I've been working on including more opportunities for vocal exploration with my younger kids, and this is a great way to mix modalities to hopefully reach more of my students in order to help them discover their head voices.
All in all, Chrome Music Lab is one of my favorite free resources to use with my students. If you have never experimented with the 13 experiments, I strongly encourage you to take a few minutes and just play around with it for a bit.
If you end up using Chrome Music Lab in your classroom, I would love to hear how it went! You can always send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or can DM me on Instagram at @ThatMusicTeacher.
Want to learn more about how I use technology in the music room? Join my free five-day challenge on implementing instructional technology into your music curriculum! Click here to get started!
Yup. It's that time of year when a quarter of the school is out sick. As flu season fully kicks off, I think it's a good time to talk about staying healthy when we see hundreds of germ sponges, I mean children, each and every day.
1. Wash Those Hands
Okay, you knew this was coming. I really hope that hand-washing is not a novel concept to us as teachers. While it might sound like a given, I think it's too important to leave off the list.
I am lucky enough to have a sink in my classroom at my elementary classroom. I take a few seconds at the end of each class during flu season and wash my hands. While I don't have a sink to wash my hands in my middle school classroom, I do make it a point to use hand sanitizer at the end of each period.
2. Sanitize, Sanitize, Sanitize
If your school has students bring in Clorox wipes at the beginning of the year, I recommend asking your teachers if they have a couple they could share from their stash.
Especially with things that are shared between students like mallets, Boomwhackers, and other instruments, it's important to sanitize them as often as possible.
3. Stay Hydrated
This is a great tip for anytime throughout the year, especially for those of us that end up singing most of the day. I have a large insulated cup that I fill up multiple times throughout the day.
Drinking water is an easy way to help our bodies be prepared to fight back when we inevitably are exposed to the newest strain of stomach bug.
4. Have Your Students Wash Their Hands
I am lucky that my elementary classroom is right next to the bathroom. I don't do this all of the time, but when attendance lists begin to look extra bleak with students out sick, I actually have my students wash their hands before they enter the classroom, especially when I know I have folk dances or passing games in my lesson plan.
5. Take a Sick Day
If you are sick, you are sick. I know it can be a crazy amount of work getting sub plans ready. I know that we have a nation-wide sub shortage. I get it. But if you need to take a day, take a day.
Let's face it, we're all gonna get sick at some point. We are surrounded by little humans, it's just part of the job. But hopefully by following some of the things on this list you will be able to take fewer sick days, stay healthy, and stop the music room from becoming the epicenter of the newest plague.
During my field placements in undergrad I had the amazing experience to observe and teach with some amazing cooperating teachers. From day one I was in awe of their knowledge of their content area and their ability to sequence their lessons in a way that made everything they did in their classrooms incredibly purposeful.
But as I look back at my time with these teachers, I was blown away by the community that they were able to create in their classrooms. The amount of respect they had for their students was only overshadowed by the amount of respect the students had for them.
Once I got into my own music classroom, I knew that I wanted to have that kind of mutual respect for my students. During my field placements I noticed that by having this kind of positive community makes students want to do what they are supposed to and helped cut down on me needing to implement any negative responses to their behavior. When our students have that intrinsic motivation to succeed and behave well, we as teachers can focus more on the educational aspects of our job instead of feeling like we are putting out fires and constantly dealing with classroom management.
Where My Experiences Began
My first experiences in a classroom were actually in the lab preschool during my sophomore year of undergrad. I honestly believe that ending up in this classroom changed my entire trajectory as an educator. It all started with needing community service hours relating to education for a class in the education department. I had no idea what I was going to do. I eventually gathered up enough courage to email the director of the lab preschool to ask if they had any hours available for me to work as what was essentially an aide.
At this point in my college career I had never worked with small children, and I will be entirely honest and say I was terrified on my first day. I thought I wouldn’t have a clue what to do or how to respond to the students, and I just psyched myself out the days prior to me starting.
But the strangest thing happened when I started, I LOVED it! Everything I knew about education changed at that point. When I had reached the amount of volunteer hours I needed, I was offered a job in the same position and I ended up working in that classroom until I started my full student teaching placement.
I had an amazing teacher that I worked under, and I attribute a lot of what I have learned about building a positive community from her. Regardless of the situation that presented itself, she always responded calmly, logically, and from a place of empathy.
As I began to have more field placement experiences, and as those included me teaching more and more, I began to implement the calmness, logic, and empathy that she modeled for me each and every day. This just felt right to me. I was being completely genuine with my students and I felt that this approach gave me the confidence to run the classroom, when in reality, I still really didn’t have any idea what I was doing!
Love, Logic, and the Responsive Classroom
As I continued working with students I came across the Love and Logic parenting philosophy on Pinterest. As I read some of the blog posts and articles, I feel like what I was reading really resonated with me. Even though I’m not a parent, the idea that we love our students enough to set and enforce limits and using logic and empathy to help our students grow really stuck with me.
During the summer before I started my first music teaching position, I read the book, Responsive Classroom for Music, Art, PE, and Other Special Areas. I feel like this philosophy went well with what I already believed, and it helped me take that and create systems and procedures that complimented those beliefs.
This book talked a lot about setting routines and procedures that would set students up for success, which I instantly fell in love with. If you know anything about me, it's probably that I love having systems in place to make things easier! This text offers practical applications for the music classroom that allow students to feel as if they are being understood and appreciated.
Another huge tenant of this particular book, as well as my own philosophy of classroom culture is positive teacher language. I first began to understand the power of teacher language back at the lab preschool in undergrad. I began to see that the words that I used to respond to my students really mattered.
Teacher Language Matters
NHere’s a situation that I was in a lot when I was working at the preschool. A student would come up to me and show me a drawing that they made. If I were to respond with “I love it, it's so pretty” that’s a fine answer. It isn’t bad. But what is it really showing the student that I value about what the student had done?
Again, this is by no means a bad response, but it can be better. For instance, if I were to respond with “Thank you so much for sharing this with me! I can tell that you spent a lot of time on it and worked very hard,” then the value is being placed on the work that the student had to do in order to create their drawing.
In the music classroom, a lot of what we experience is incredibly subjective. I think it is important for us as educators to be aware of our teacher language and make sure that we are placing the value in the right areas. Instead of only placing value on the merit of the end product, it is important to recognize that the student may have worked hard to get here. This is a great to tie in the Growth Mindset that many administrators are (rightfully) pushing nowadays.
I know I keep drawing in bits and pieces of different philosophies, but I just had to share one more. I use a lot of restorative practices in my classroom as well as what I’ve already shared. Restorative practices, in my mind at least, are all about making sure the consequence of an action allows a student to take steps to repair any relationship that may have been damaged by that action.
For instance, if a student pushes another student down, whether it be an accident or on purpose, I would argue that we should start by having that student make sure the other isn’t hurt, and to help them up. I find that when students accidentally hurt another student, such as if we are doing a movement activity and they end up hitting each other, they assume there is no blame. I use these as teaching moments to show students that even though it wasn’t intentional, someone still got hurt and it is their responsibility to try to help in any way they can.
I don’t think that we will ever have one teaching or classroom management philosophy that will be perfect. I think it is our jobs as educators to pick what we like about each of those that we see and include our own life experiences to create a philosophy that works for us.
Our students deserve a positive community of learners in the music classroom. When they feel safe they are more willing to take risks and try new things. When they feel appreciated they are less likely to act out. And on a purely selfish note, when our students feel safe, understood, and appreciated, they are more likely to follow instructions and try new things when we as teachers are teaching.
So if you only had one takeaway from this blog post, I guess that I would hope that you realize that your teacher language matters. Like a lot. Even if you don’t intend for something to have the implication that a student receives, it can be there. I urge you to think about the types of phrases you use with your students and think about ways that we can empower our students through our words in a way that allows them to understand that we genuinely care about them and their time in and outside of our classrooms.
It's no secret that I love using picture books in my classroom. I've written a post before about some of my favorite books, but I have so many favorites that I needed to share some more with you today!
If you are anything like me and order considerably more books for my classroom than I probably should, I strongly encourage checking out ThriftBooks. I buy 99% of the books for my classroom from ThriftBooks and I have always been impressed by the prices and shipping times.
1. Harold Finds a Voice, Courtney Dicmas
Harold Finds a Voice is an adorable book about a parrot that hasn't found his voice. He goes around imitating other sounds, but he can never find his squawk.
I use this book with my Kindergartners for vocal exploration. After we read the book I have a parrot finger puppet that I give to a student to make "fly" up and down. As they are doing this, the student and the rest of the class show the vocal contour of the line being flown.
I find that this activity is easy to transition into having students explore their vocal ranges through lines, mountains, roller coasters, and other forms of visual representation.
2. Clickety Clack, Rob and Amy Spence
I use this book at the beginning of the year with my Kindergartners and First graders. The students enter the room on a "train" speaking the chant Engine Number Nine. This chant is perfect for teaching those comparatives such as fast and slow.
I use this book as a transition towards an activity with sand blocks where students start as a slow train and then gradually speed up and slow down. This book also has a great rhyme scheme to prepare rhythmic patterns.
3. The Pout Pout Fish, Deborah Diesen
Another book that has a great rhyme scheme is The Pout Pout Fish. This book is a little longer, so I usually use it for second grade. It pairs really well with Charlie Over the Ocean, too!
I've had students notice which phrase is the "refrain" and assign instruments for each of the specific words to create a percussion piece that goes along with the book. I've found this is a great way to get my students to begin to make choices that will help them when fully composing their own compositions.
4. There's A Hole in the Bucket, John M. Feierabend
This classic song-tale is one of my absolute favorites! I love using this book with any age of kids, really. It is a song all about trying to fix a hole in the bucket and all the tools and steps that would be needed in order to be able to fix it. Its a comical story and one of my kiddos' favorites!
5. Fred the Bee, Kali Barnett
I couldn't leave this book off the list! This book is a fairly new story by Kali Barnett. Kali was a music teacher for 12 years before leaving the classroom to run for U.S. Congress in 2019.
This story is about a Bee named Fred who is having a little bit of a rough day. I love it because it includes its own text set to the tune of Bingo. It also references Bee Bee Bumblebee, which is one of my all-time favorite chants to use in my classroom.
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Bryson Tarbet is the music educator and blogger behind That Music Teacher.