Music Room Ramblings

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Assessments in Music—Are You Kidding?

 Nope, not at all!


Assessments, Accountability, and Integrity in Teaching Music

When I first began teaching music, it was because music was not offered in the elementary schools in Nashville, "Music City USA," and I wanted my daughter to have a good foundation in music education. So I volunteered to teach, for FREE!

I quickly realized that teaching just her class was not going to work because the following year she would not be with the same students. Other students from other classes would be mixed in. I would then be teaching students who had had a year of music and others who were brand new.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Back-to-Back Classes Driving You Crazy?

Have a Consistent Learning Activity at the Beginning of Every Class

A little background . . . 

When I first began teaching, I made a set of rhythm cards and a set of melody cards both of which were levels K-4th grade. I would frantically pull cards out and/or put them back in as a new grade level entered the room. 

Finally, it occurred to me that I needed a separate set for each grade level. Duh!! 

And then I had the even more brilliant idea to color-code these cards using a different color for each grade. Bingo!! The students instantly recognized their colors, I used the same colors for their vocabulary words and Word Walls. I cannot stress enough how

Monday, August 7, 2017

And This Is Why I Am Directionally Challenged!

When speaking to an audience or teaching a classroom full of children, do you gesture left to right OR right to left? 

A long time ago, I learned from a child psychologist that any time you stand in front of a group of students, you should "mirror" all of your hand motions. And even though that's difficult, I learned how, and the results are amazing.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Be Careful! Don't Throw the Baby Out with the Bath Water!

Textbooks & CDs—Keep or Toss?

Many new teachers walk into their first music classroom and are confronted with a collection of textbooks and CDs (maybe even LPs and cassette tapes). The dilemma is—what to do with these?

Warning! I'm old school. Well, let's just say, I'm old. And retired. But I used the books and CDs long before iPods, and actually long before CDs.

Yep, I used records. For those of you who are not familiar, those are the black circuluar vinyl disks that are put on another circular contraption that goes 'round and 'round when turned on called a turntable and you pull an arm thing over that has a needle on it so it will play. Imagine that?!! 


I moved right along with progress and was the first in our school to have and use a computer. A little Apple Plus, I think. After that, I was thrilled when the iPod came out, purchased one, and immediately loaded all the CDs into iTunes and used a very nice Bose speaker doc and remote (most of which I paid for myself). I had a SmartBoard, projector, and all the bells and whistles. 


But, I always used the books. I feel it's very important for children to have their very own book in

Monday, July 31, 2017

YIKES! Got a New Job . . . First Day!! Now What Do I Do?

Yep! You gotta write those lesson plans.

After 30 years, I never went into the classroom, "winging it." NEVER!! Teaching without plans? Recipe for disaster!

Ah, but the ones I wrote for that darn methods class are not very practical for the classroom. You know, Really? Four pages, explaining why I'm doing what I'm doing. And I can't even quickly find WHAT I'm supposed to be doing! 

So, how do you do it? And make it look so easy?

Great question!

Where to start?

Friday, July 28, 2017

First-Year Teachers—Check it out!!

If you are a first-year teacher, you'll be overwhelmed with all of the non-classroom things you have to do before school starts and then when school starts you won't believe the amount of lesson planning and classroom management that will hit you HARD!

These Lesson Plan Bundles were created with new teachers in mind. I have received lots of positive comments about the Elementary Music Lesson Plans for a Year Bundle, K-5.

The comments below are exactly what I was hoping for—to help new teachers and provide resources for teachers who were not as blessed as I was through the years with pretty much everything a teacher could want.

Here are just a few comments from 2015 and 2016. 

Comments from 2016
I love the lay-out, and have used many of the lessons in my curriculum. The curriculum meshes easily with mine.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

To Teach Recorders or Not? That is the question!

But never a question for me! Even though it was not optional, I loved teaching recorder. In our district, actually in the state of Tennessee, recorder is a required part of the elementary music curriculum beginning in 3rd grade.

Teaching Music Reading Skills Method Book


I always began recorder in 3rd grade around October after review and being sure new students were caught up. Because of the sequential curriculum (Teaching Music Reading Skills), my students were introduced to the names of the treble clef lines and spaces at the end of 2nd grade. So they were ready and excited to begin their first instrument in 3rd grade. A video of one of my introductory class to 3rd graders is included in the eBook.

 Lesson Planning

My First Recorder Book, Teacher Guide
In my once a week, one-hour class, I used 20 minutes for the first 4-6 weeks to introduce and reinforce with the 3rd graders. After that, 10-15 minutes were sufficient. By the end of 3rd grade, students were reading and playing 5 notes—BAG-CD— very solidly.

I based My First Recorder Book, Student Book and Teacher's Guide, on my method of teaching recorder. The teacher's guide gives permission to the buyer to make copies of the songs so students can compile their own repertoire. The student book is an eBook and available as a PDF download from Teachers Pay Teachers as well as Amazon Kindle. Students are allowed to download to 3 devices—desktop, tablet, and phone. No more books to remember to take home and bring back!! Use the song pages on the screen in class.

Assessing—How to assess without sacrificing instructional time?

Because I did a lot of small-group, composing and creating activities, I was able to listen to individuals play while others were working on projects without sacrificing instructional time. Sightreading and Vocabulary pages are included in these books.


I used cords as an incentive LONG before Recorder Karate came out. Remember, I've been around for over 30 years! Students respond well to those types of challenges. Recorder Karate and many other plans are great! Mine worked for me and my students responded so well, I never felt the need to change. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!"

Songs were assigned point value and students knew how many points it took to earn a cord, just 2 per year for my plan. I purchased cording (4 different colors) by the yard at a fabric store, cut it into approximately 24"-28" lengths, made a loop on one end to attach around the recorder's mouthpiece and then a knot on the other end. At the end of each 9-week grading period, I made a HUGE deal of awarding the students their cords. They wore them around their necks as a badge of honor! LOL I did this for many years and never had any problems.

Patriotic Song Bundle, Levels 2-3 

Advanced Recorders

By 4th grade, I was able to do lots of fun and challenging things with the recorders. Students were reading well and playing well by Christmas, for sure. Peer tutoring works well when you've done all you can do. Some students will listen to their peers more readily than me and I would give extra points to the tutors if their "pupil" could successfully play a song.

A great, all-school program can be built around these patriotic songs. Wonderful soundtracks, composed specifically for recorder, narration, and solid, standards-based lesson plans to incorporate into your curriculum. There are even suggestions for including your beginning recorder students on some of the songs. If you have a good, sequential plan, your 4th graders can easily play most of these songs by spring. And this is a fantastic way to showcase the music education that you are providing at your school.


The key to successfully teaching any skill is consistency and enthusiasm! I loved teaching recorder and the middle school band directors were thrilled to get my students.

So I evidently was doing something right. (BTW, I'm retired now and a Side-by-Side coach in our district.)