Wednesday, December 17, 2014

What's on My Desk

Hi everyone!  I can't believe how bad I've been about blogging this semester!!  It's been crazy at my school, I've moved to a new home, as well as other assorted distractions.  But... back at it!

Today I'm linking up with Mrs. Tanenblatt at Music with Mrs. Tanenblatt for her "What's on Your Desk?" Linky Party.  Click the picture to go to her blog. 

Every year, I start out with the goal that my desk will stay neat and organized and not look like an unstable pile of stuff. Well, this year I've managed to keep that goal (so far). Here's a picture of my desk. 

So, what's on my desk?  Of course, my computer and accessories - I sit my monitor on a stand so that I can slide the wireless keyboard underneath and bring out the wired keyboard with number pad when I'm working in Sibelius or another program that is numerical data heavy. 

The background goes with my room theme, Superheroes. I hung a shelf from IKEA and the racks and baskets from IKEA for my VCR/DVD player, iPod Dock, Zenergy chime, writing utensils, remotes, lotion, dry erase markers and cloth, tuning fork, whistle, and other random small items.

My sub binder is always on my desk with a set of emergency activities.  The 'kid plague' has been going around, and even teachers haven't been immune.

My big project right now for my classes has been to enter all of Denise Bacon's 185 Unison Pentatonic Exercises into Sibelius so they are easier for little eyes and brains.

The right side of my desk has miscellaneous resource books, decor and anchor charts to be hung as students learn about them, and data tracking charts for our special education students.

Overall, my desk is a pretty functional space.  Hopefully I can keep it this way - there's enough chaos in this music teacher's life without having to sort through massive piles on my desk every day. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

My Music Room Set-Up

Good morning everyone! Today I am linking up again with Aileen Miracle at Mrs. Miracle's Music Room for her linky party on music room set-up. Click below to go to her original post (after you've finished reading mine of course). My first day with students isn't until the 25th, but teachers report on the 15th for Professional Development and meetings. We do get some time to work on our rooms and plan, but it's never enough. I've been working through the week, and will probably update my post several times along the way. If you want to be notified of updates, follow me on Facebook or Twitter! There are links on the right side of the blog.

First, a couple of "before" pictures. I'm very fortunate to not have to take every little thing down every summer. 

This is the view from my classroom door, where students enter.

... And the view from the stage door. I love that my classroom is directly behind our stage.

This is a panorama from the back of my classroom.

... And from the front.

We don't have a school-wide theme, so I have a lot of freedom to do what I want with my classroom. After a lot of consideration, I decided to go with a Superhero theme!  I thought this would appeal to students of all ages!

This is my Solfa City bulletin board and group supplies underneath. I already had the shelves, but you can buy similar ones at Walmart (my local Walmart had them for $16). The containers are from Dollar Tree (I love that store!)  I'll blog more about the supply containers and how I'm using them later.

This bulletin board is from Teachers Pay Teachers. It's part of Jamie Parker's Superhero Music Class Decor Set. I may redo the backdrop. I used a blue tablecloth, but as you can see, my old bulletin board for Solfa Street is still kind of visible in the background (in case I go back to it next year). I'm going to add some flying superhero characters to this board yet to fill some of the empty space.

This set acts as my word wall. It is from Cori Bloom at Rhythm & Bloom and is called 'What to Listen for in Music.' I still have a few pieces left to put up, but love how it fits on these cabinets. We are in the process of replacing old Orff instruments, and were told by our Fine Arts Coordinator to either send the old ones to surplus or use them for decorating.

This is the same word wall after some rearranging and adding Cori's updates from the summer.  The next pictures are some close-ups of the different sections and how I have them organized.

For this last picture, I used several copies of the blank sheet Cori includes to put all of my rhythms for K-5, in the order we teach them. This will make a great reference for students.

(Picture updated 8/20/14 with higher quality) My classroom has NO magnetic surfaces! But we are provided with these magnetic solfa hand signs and label dots. The hearts are magnetic also, and are small enough I can use them alongside the solfa. I got this oil drip pan at Walmart and mounted it using Command Strips. The Solfa Superheroes posters are from Aileen Miracle's TPT store (they're free!).

In this corner, we have a pocket chart set from Lakeshore Learning. Each color represents a grade level and will have the learning targets for that grade level posted.  I have three different sets of learning targets, two from Sweet Sounds - K-2 and 3-5 (to have sets based on TEKS), Jamie Parker, and Aileen Miracle.

(Pictures updated 8/20/14 with higher quality) Keeping with the Superhero theme, my instrument family posters are labeled using a Superhero Alphabet from Three Busy Besties. I created the green and purple one using a background from them and bubble from Krista Wallden. The Percussion label is hard to read, I couldn't find the right font, so I may keep trying and remake that one also.

(Picture updated 8/20/14 with higher quality) MUSIC Rules are from Amy Abbott's We're Musicians, What's Your Superpower? classroom decor bundle. The poster at the bottom says 'Before you speak, think...'  I'm going to change out the Marzano scale on the right. The current scale is from Stomp'nChat (EDIT - 8/17 - found the TPT seller for the Marzano scale)

My desk. I covered the back with a tablecloth. The shelf and brackets are from IKEA and cost a total of $3.00. The black and white bins and the towel racks are also from IKEA in the kitchen section. One of my personal goals for this year is to keep my desk cleared off, so hopefully these organizers will help.

I hope you enjoyed the tour of my classroom! I'll keep posting as I finish adding the final touches throughout the next week or so.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Teaching Tips from the Trenches

Hello again. Today I'm linking up with Lindsay Jervis at Pursuit of Joyfulness for some Teaching Tips from the Trenches. My tips are going to be more geared to daily life as the music teacher, as opposed to ideas directly impacting instruction.

When you are the music teacher, it can often feel like you are on an island. You are usually the only teacher of your subject in the building, and sometimes the district. But what can you do to become more "in-tune" with the rest of your school and how to make the most of the never-about-your-subject staff development meetings.

#1. Stretch your vision

When sitting in staff development meetings, I often find myself sitting in a back corner of the room, using my iPad or phone to do work having nothing to do with the meeting topic. After a while, I started to really pay attention to certain aspects of the discussion - especially training in topics such as Understanding by Design. As I was listening, I started to think - "Isn't this just Kodály in the regular education classroom?" That lightbulb moment led me to start listening a bit closer in meetings to see what I could easily adapt to my classroom. Granted, this was before learning targets and essential questions became the "hip thing."

I've found that since starting to think this way, the students and staff have become more receptive to music and any ideas I may offer up for the building. I also saw my evaluations improve when I learned to speak education instead of just music education.

#2. Get out of your classroom

Sometimes you have those moments where you can't figure out why a class acts the way they do - either good or bad. My second tip is - get out of your classroom and into the regular classrooms as much as you can. Even if you just sit in the back for fifteen minutes, you can gain a huge insight into your students and their needs. Listen to the language the classroom teacher uses to give directions, to begin transitions, etc., and draw what you can into the music classroom. Ask the classroom teachers what makes their students tick, what interests particular students - and implement those ideas in your classroom whenever you can.

#3. Reinforce classroom concepts

Now I know what you are thinking - "Don't I already have enough to do without bringing in classroom concepts!" But it's not about stopping what we do to teach something for the classroom teacher, it's about reinforcing the concepts that happen naturally. For example, with lower elementary students we reinforce reading and tracking skills every time we follow a beat chart or have students read rhythms.  I go so far as to make sure that if I am using a mobile object for my beat chart (car/train/animal) that the object is facing so that it moves from left-to-right. We reinforce science skills when we talk about sound production. We reinforce social studies when we put a song in an historical context. Math is the other very logical connection. I draw math connections every day with rhythms and measures. We figure out the fractions, we add the rhythms to ensure the measure is full (or in math, that the equation is balanced).

#4. Work smarter, not harder

It can be overwhelming to plan for multiple grade levels, sometimes for more than one class each week.  Find a planning/organization system that works for you and your building/district requirements and use it. My personal favorite is It is fully customizable, including the ability to insert templates to match your requirements - and you can even share lesson plans with other teachers. If your district has special standards or curriculum, it can be easily added to the program. Customer service is fantastic and receptive to ideas to make the program better.

I hope these thoughts give you some ideas from the trenches that maybe you haven't thought of before.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Top Ten Things I Want to Do This Summer

Good Evening. Tonight I am linking up with Deanna Jump at Mrs. Jump's Class for my Top Ten Things I Want to Do This Summer.

This is the first summer that I won't be spending time in Manitowoc, WI for graduate school, so I might actually have time to do some of these things!

#1. Move. It's just across town, but I want to move.

#2. Get my home organized. This will take quite a while. I still have unopened boxes from last year's move that I hope to get through.

#3. Read several books. On my reading list are the Divergent series and Game of Thrones series. I also want to finish No Mopes Allowed.

#4. Start my TPT store. I have some files created and ideas, although I'm nowhere near as creative as some of the folks whose stores I shop.

#5. Blog more.

#6. Lay by the pool. This goes along with #3.

#7. Do some long range planning for next school year. This will be my second year in my district/building and I know I want to do a lot of things differently.

#8. Create manipulatives! I have so many great ideas sitting on my Pinterest account that I can't wait to make!

#9. Get in the habit of writing on my blog frequently!

#10. Binge on some Netflix - I have so much in my queue, and finally have some time to catch up.

Enjoy your summers everyone!!

Five Favorite Pins of June

Hello everyone. Today I'm linking up again with Aileen Miracle for her Five Favorite Pins of June Linky Party.  My Pinterest account is still fairly new, so I don't have a whole lot on it yet, but I'm working on it!

Click each picture to be taken directly to the pin. I haven't figured out how to embed the pin properly so I'm just going to link a picture of the pin.

#1. Solfa Texting Sticks

I love, love love this idea! I've seen it pinned a couple of different ways, but like the idea of the hand signs. My other thought is to take my Solfa Street house graphics and shrink them down to fit on the stick. I plan to make sets for each concept level, starting with so-mi.

#2 Rhythm Abacus

What a great way to manipulate rhythms! This idea comes from Amy Abbott. I love that she uses two separate noodle segments for showing the half note, so students MUST show an understanding that it lasts for two beats.

#3 Slap Rhythms/Melodies

This idea comes from a classroom teacher's blog, but by putting either rhythm patterns or melodic patterns on each of the cards, the idea could come to the music room. This would be great with a recording for a sub day.

#4 Door Decor

This is just cute. I'm always looking for neat ways to decorate my door.

#5 Mystery Walker (Musician)

What a great way to have all students on their best behavior. I think instead of making it a Mystery Walker I would make it a mystery student and use their seating number to watch them during the entire class period to see if they earn something special - maybe line leader?

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Milestones Worth Celebrating

I sometimes find it difficult to think of ideas for blog posts, so as I'm reading other blog posts, I'm looking at interesting linky parties to join. Today I am linking up with Make Moments Matter's linky party about milestones. I know I'm a bit late to the party, but better late than never!

Milestones! Something to Celebrate!

Professional Highlights:

  • Moved from Dayton, Ohio to Dallas (Plano), Texas for a new, amazing job in one of the best school districts for music education in the country
  • Finished my Master's Degree (finally) from Silver Lake College. I was so fortunate to study with Sr. Lorna and all of the amazing instructors at Silver Lake for the last six years and to graduate with many of my good friends from all over the world
  • Attended TMEA for the first time - Wow. Just. Wow. I was in awe for three straight days agh the sheer number of attendees and quality of the conference

Social Media Highlights:

  • Started this new blog, in the hopes of reaching more readers and enjoying more control of my blog
  • Became more active on twitter - follow me @kodalymusictchr (Click on the Twitter icon on the top right of this page to go straight to my Twitter feed)
  • Just last week, I started a Facebook page (Like my page by clicking on the Facebook icon on the top right of this page)

School Highlights:

  • Started at a new school with very different program requirements, but my second graders put on an AMAZING program called "Where the Wild Things Are." I found the program on Aileen Miracle's TPT site. It's part of her book "From Song to Stage" and is fabulous! I changed out one song. The kids and families LOVED this program. Here are the links to both the book and just this program

 From Song to Stage - Aileen Miracle
 Where the Wild Things Are - Aileen Miracle

I'm looking forward to a restful, but productive summer, and soon, another wonderful year of milestones!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Classroom Management for Today's Students

Today I'm linking up with Aileen Miracle's Dazzling Discipline Linky Party.

Dazzling Discipline Linky Party

I was reading a Facebook post the other day (that I can't find again to see who wrote it), and the person was questioning the idea of no "rules" in the classroom. When I first started teaching, I had read "The First Days of School" and set clear expectations through - you guessed it - rules! They went something like this: Keep your hands and feet to yourself, Raise your hand to be called on, and a host of other "do's and don'ts." They were posted when students walked in for the first time and we went over them on the first class. We used an Assertive Discipline plan at that school "Tags" and students who broke a rule were directed to "pull a tag" when they got back to class. My thought as a beginning teacher was "Great! There's a school-wide discipline system in place - all I have to do is follow it!"

 Fast-forward a about three years, and a couple of classroom teachers have started implementing a new form of "discipline" in their classroom (they team taught). They had gone to Responsive Classroom training during the summer, and it changed everything - and I mean EVERYTHING - they did with discipline in their classroom. So now, we have our Tag system in all but two classrooms. I started to notice that the Tags had little effect on how students were responding to their behavior choices, so I started to pay close attention to the behaviors of the two classes using this new system. I found that those two sets of students were better behaved in general and responded better to redirection. This got me thinking, maybe this Tag system and the way I'd been doing things needed to change.

The next summer, two more teachers, one in fourth grade and one in third went to the training. The next year, I noticed more of the same - the students in the "Responsive" classrooms were acting much differently than the rest of the school. This made me want to learn more about Responsive Classroom, so after a lengthy conversation with my principal about what I was noticing, I was allowed to attend the Level I training the following summer as a representative from the Specials Team. What I learned during that week-long training was amazing.

 When I got back to school that August, the first thing I did was throw away my "Rules" poster. Instead, on the first day of music, each student in every class gave me one "rule" they felt needed to be in our classroom. Every. Single. Rule. was written on the IWB. We then talked about how overwhelming that many rules would be, and how cool it would be if all of those rules fit into three nice categories. The students were very intrigued, with some of the older children saying things like "no way!" The three categories I gave them were "Take care of yourself. Take care of each other. Take care of our classroom and everything in it." I asked the students to classify each of their rules into these categories. After we finished that task, I asked the students if it was going to be easier to remember x rules or 3 positive statements. Almost every student in the school said they liked the three statements better.

During the next class, we discussed consequences, but I framed it as "What happens when we don't meet these statements or expectations?" I have found that the key to student buy-in is to have the consequence be logical. Most of the problems I see in my classroom are easily solved by implementing immediate, logical consequences. What good did it do to take recess from a kid who used the xylophone improperly??? When a student needs time to cool off - they "Take a break." I no longer go into a long diatribe about what a student did wrong or should do differently. Now I simply tell a student "Johnny, take a break." That student goes to a chair in a designated spot in the room, and is invited back after several minutes. If a child misuses an instrument, they lose the privilege of using the instrument.

Basically, I have no rules in my classroom. Instead, I use norms or positive expectations. Student buy-in is key to this and it's totally worth the class time devoted to setting this up each year.

My thoughts have evolved slightly since I first did this in my classroom, but the principles are still there. I now have all of their ideas fit into a "MUSIC" acrostic with norms/expectations, and my students understand that some activities are privileges and are much more respectful of the expectations in my classroom.

Friday, June 13, 2014


Welcome to my blog's new home. I used to host this blog at WordPress, but found that Blogger was much more my style and easier to use.

To see my old posts, click here.

It has been a wild ride since I started the original blog, but I'm hoping that with a fresh start comes more regular posts.