How to Use a Music Bracket in Your Classroom

Happy March! Everyone’s making their March Madness brackets, why not channel some of that excitement towards music history and appreciation? I got this idea from my amazing former co-worker a few years ago who made a book bracket for the media center. I think the big winner then was a Minecraft book or maybe it was Diary of A Wimpy Kid… but probably Minecraft.

This is one of the simplest bulletin/wall decor designs you can make. Just take a piece of paper (printer or butcher), a ruler, and a sharpie and draw some brackets! The design that I’ve used has the traditional 64 spots, but you could easily eliminate the outer brackets for 32 or 16 spots. You could also just use the right half only. If your school has a die cut machine just make a title like “Classical Music Bracket” and you’re done!

How to Set-Up Your Brackets

  • Outer columns: 16 brackets per side (4 per page)
  • Next column in: 8 per side (2 per page)
  • Next column in: 4 per side (1 per page)
  • Next column in: 2 per side (top 1/2 of one bracket connects to the bottom half which will be on a second page)
  • Winner rectangle in center (turn page horizontally)

Customize Your Brackets

  • I filled my brackets with composers from the Medieval to Modern periods but you could do a combo of any genre. I have pieces from the Medieval to Impressionist periods on the left, and Modern pieces (not including Impressionist) on the right.
  • You could do Classical vs. Popular to get the kids even more excited.
  • I’ve made sure to include some instantly recognizable classical hits (Figaro’s Aria) along with pieces by composers of color that my music history classes overlooked such as works by Florence Price and Chevalier de Saint-Georges.

Chevalier de Saint-Georges

Ways to Use Your Brackets

  • If you have been told to incorporate more “literacy” (insert eye roll here), you could have them write which piece they chose to win and why.
  • Students can also have a friendly debate with each other on why they think their piece should win.
  • Students can vote for winners, or different classes can choose winners from brackets that are assigned to them. Then, a third class can choose the winner of the two brackets who are up against each other, and so forth.

Print-and-Go Bracket

If you want to literally just print and tape/staple these pages up, you can find the editable PowerPoint file or Print-and-Go PDF on TeachersPayTeachers. Just click here! The final look is HUGE (8′ x 3.5′) and uses about 30 pieces of paper. It will take up a big chunk of the wall so if you don’t have that kind of real estate, just post it in the hallway for everyone to enjoy! 🙂

Happy Teaching!

Do you need an engaging music listening activity for your general music class, band, or orchestra? This classical March Classical Music Bracket is a perfect way to add 10-15 minutes of music appreciation to your lessons. It's so easy to make, and the PowerPoint is fully editable! Use any genre of music and get your kids competing for their favorite pieces! #sillyomusic

How to Make Clothespin Puppets for Shy Singers

It’s common to have primary music students who are reluctant to sing or even say their names. Since puppets in music class help shy kiddos sing, why not make inexpensive puppets for everyone with clothespins? Try using them for warm-ups, vocal play, call & response songs, and conversational solfege.

During primary lessons, I sing the roll to check attendance. The students answer back with a sol-mi response. They can say “pre-sent” or answer the question of the day (what’s your favorite color, food, etc.). A favorite Hello Song of mine is “Hickety Dickety Bumble Bee.” Students can respond during both activities with their puppets by whispering, speaking, singing, or calling their names.

Ideas for Materials:

  • Wooden clothespins
  • Googly eyes
  • Superglue/glue
  • Markers
  • Chenille stems (pipe cleaners)
  • Yarn
  • Pom poms
  • Felt
  • Construction Paper/cardstock
  • Cardboard
  • Scissors
  • Glitter

Ideas for Decorating

  • Have students color the clothespins to their heart’s desire with markers. Super glue some googly eyes to the side when they finish coloring.
  • Students can decorate a circular sticker, cut it in half, remove the backing, and stick to clothespin. I found the stickers in the card section of my local arts and crafts store.
  • Make Silly Singers! Add googly eyes and a pom pom for hair. Color the “lips” red. You’ll want to glue the pom-pom and eyes with superglue after the kids pick out which colors they want. You can also preglue them. They will fall off with school glue. I also wrapped a chenille stem around the bottom and cut off the excess with scissors for a better grip.
  • Paper cutout – have students color a paper singer to glue on to the clothespin. Add crafting materials to embellish.

Free Printable Paper Cut-Outs

Below is a printable that you can use as a template for your clothespin singers. Embellish them with paper or other crafting materials.

  • Give students one or two squares to color. Give them one if you only want one side of the puppet to have a face. Give them two to cover both sides, just make sure to turn one of the circles upside-down.
  • Show them some examples. You can create a funny face, animal, or monster. This is a side-view so the lip lines have been added as a guide. They will have to draw their own eye.
  • Cut out the circle, then cut the circle in half along the dotted line.
  • Glue the top and bottom onto the top and bottom of the clothespin.
Right-click on the image above and save it to your computer. Then print the PNG file.

Ideas for Storage

  • Write students’ names on the bottom of their clothespins
  • For PreK or daycare, you could pre-make simple puppets and keep them in a bin.
  • Store clothespins in a shoebox for each class
  • Clip them to a clip chart. Students can take their puppet down as you call them one at a time for attendance

I hope your students have a great time singing with their puppets!

How to Make Clothespin Puppets for Shy Singers - Fun and easy student craftivity for prek, daycare, or primary elementary music class. Free printable template included. An engaging activity for non-music sub plans or a rewarding activity for a class party.  You can even use them as a favor/craft for a kid's birthday party and use them to sing "Happy Birthday."  #sillyomusic

Gum cases: easy storage for centers and manipulatives!

Reuse gum containers to store classroom manipulatives and centers cards! Here's a list of ten items you can store to up your classroom organization game! Your stations will be a snap to set-out and clean up! #sillyomusic

The hoarder in me started saving my Extra chewing gum boxes because I knew I would find a use for them. I hated to throw away a perfectly good, reusable container. At first, I  started storing business cards in them, then centers cards, and then more and more storage ideas came to mind. I could not chew the gum fast enough, haha!

If you’re like me, you have tons of little cards and manipulatives for students to use. I was storing them in Ziploc bags and it was horrible. The kids wouldn’t seal the bags and cards would get all mixed up. Also, they were not easy to store since they slid all over the place.

I now make manipulatives that are 4×3″ or 3×3″ because they fit perfectly into the Extra gum cases. Kids like snapping them shut, they stack nicely into any box, and best of all, they are clear so I know exactly what’s inside each one. I would pick them up at my local pharmacy or grocery store and start chewing!

Reuse gum containers to store classroom manipulatives and centers cards! Here's a list of ten items you can store to up your classroom organization game! Your stations will be a snap to set-out and clean up! #sillyomusic

Here are 10 things you can store in a gum box, but I’m sure you can think of more:

  • Cards & Manipulatives
  • Tiny erasers
  • Bingo chips
  • Crayons
  • Paperclips
  • Dice
  • Stickers
  • PBIS bucks or punchcards
  • Equity sticks (short ones)
  • Clothespins

If you have cards that are a bit too big, try adjusting the print size to 80% or less to make the cards smaller. You can find the Rhythm Match game you see in the example, here!

Happy organizing!


Reuse gum containers to store classroom manipulatives and centers cards! Here's a list of ten items you can store to up your classroom organization game! Your stations will be a snap to set-out and clean up! #sillyomusic

Recorder Order

tiny crew blog images_recorder order header copy

I recently shared my process of introducing new pieces for the recorder in a blog post for The Music Crew.  Check it out by clicking here or the image above. Lots of awesome tips for recorder magic! 

TLDR?  Here are the steps in a nutshell:

  • Read the lyrics – just have the class read them any old way that sounds natural.
  • Clap the rhythm – display only the rhythm on the board, 1-line staff, no pitches, lyrics, etc.
  • Clap the rhythm while reading the lyrics – display rhythm and lyrics only, do this as many times as needed.
  • Play the rhythm on one note – for example, play the Hot Cross Buns rhythm only on “B.”
  • Review notes on the lines and space – only review notes that are in the piece.
  • Identify the note names in the piece and speak them in rhythm – display complete piece, write letters on notes at first and then take them away.
  • Sing the solfege – display the pitches and sing them.
  • Sing the song – it gets the melody into students’ heads and makes it easier for them to self-correct later.
  • Review fingerings needed for the piece.
  • Finger and play the piece while articulating a syllable like “doo” or “too” – no recorders in mouths at this time.
  • Play the piece on recorders – write letters on notes at first and then take them away.
  • Isolate and break down any problem measures if needed.

Happy teaching!


Focus & Engage Students with Musical 4 Corners

4 Corners in the Music Room

One of my classroom management tools is to have a set routine so that students can get into good habits. To break up the monotony of teaching the same routine throughout the week, I try to incorporate an exciting, whole-group game at the end of each lesson. Musical 4 Corners is one that is frequently requested and easy to create. Students are so engrossed in playing, they don’t realize they are reviewing objectives along the way.
I created this version of 4 Corners years ago after watching 2nd graders play 4 Corners week after week during indoor recess. I didn’t understand why they were so captivated by this simple game but I decided to harness some of this recess magic and make a musical version for the classroom. It was a hit and I love that it gives students the chance to get up and move around while reviewing musical concepts.  It can also be played for any length of time making it a perfect closure activity for the end of class.
The best part is that Musical 4 Corners is adaptable to any objective. Kindergartners beg for the 4 Voices version and easily picked up on the rules and how to play. The rhythm and solfege games were even a hit with middle schoolers! 



All you need to do is label 4 areas of the classroom (1-4) and show a card/slide of 4 different patterns. You can use rhythm, pitch, dynamic symbols, note names, or whatever else you’re working on.  One easy way to create the cards is to just write the 4 patterns on pieces of paper and project them. See the free download link below as an example). Create about 15 cards. You can also find a free set of cards to download below the video. 


  • The child who is “it” covers their eyes and counts to 10 while classmates tiptoe to a corner of their choice.
  • When time is up, you clap one of the rhythms on the card. Find a way to choose a corner at random (equity sticks, make a predetermined list, etc).
  • Everyone standing in the corner with the chosen pattern sits down.
  • Keep playing until there is 1 student left.
  • I let the winner choose a small prize from a prize box, but I’ve played without prizes and they love it just as well.

Players Are Automatically Out If They:

  • Run
  • Talk
  • Move before the countdown
  • Are not securely in a corner at the end of the countdown

If the directions are confusing, here’s a quick video of me talking through the game with a PowerPoint version I created for TeachersPayTeachers:


Download the rhythm cards I’ve used for free here —> Rhythm Rounds.

I hope you try the Musical 4 Corners out with your classes. It’s great for when things are a little hectic and you need an educational time-filler. If you have a tech-savvy sub, I highly recommend using one of my prepared PowerPoint games. The PowerPoints pretty much run themselves, and there are enough cards to play several rounds. The Instrument Families or Notes & Rests versions are great ones for a non-music sub to start with.

Happy teaching,9ec1b-sig2bsmall_name2bcopy

A nice tutorial on how to set up a Musical 4 Corners game for your elementary music classroom. You can take any concept and incorporate it into a game so middle school band, choir, and general music students love it too! A fun, active game to end your music lesson plans with!