Sneaky Practice Charts For Instrumental Students This Year

Here’s another tool in your toolbox for getting music students to practice their instruments at home. It’s part of the foot-in-the-door phenomenon and works well for all sorts of tasks that we tend to put off.

The foot-in-the-door technique is a way to coerce someone into doing something big by asking them to do something small first. For instance, you could ask your principal for permission to display music advocacy posters throughout the school. Then, when you ask for funds to buy new music stands, your principal will be more likely to say yes to keep the positive momentum going.

There’s also a way to use this technique on yourself. For instance, if you tell yourself that all you have to do is put on your running shoes with no obligation to go for a jog, you will inevitably find yourself jogging more often than not. The same principle applies to practicing. Students must agree to open their cases every day at home. Just open it and nothing else. Students will have to fight the urge to pick it up and play every day. Chances are they will practice a time or two when they otherwise wouldn’t.

Right now is an excellent time of year to do this because winter break is about to begin, and the new year is coming up. Why not have your students make a New Year resolution to do the simplest of tasks that may lead to practicing. Have each section or student commit to something like opening the case, buzzing for 10 seconds on their mp, or putting on their neckstrap once a day. Even sitting for a minute or two and thinking about technique or the clapping a rhythm can do wonders. I’ve added a Small Steps Chart to my Monthly Practice Chart set as well as my New Years Color-By-Note set, but you could easily make your own!

In light of COVID-19, I’ve decided to upload a free page that can be used for any month. Download it here or click on the image below!

Wishing your students a year of happy practicing!

A Fun and Easy Singing Game for “Five Fat Turkeys”

Need a engaging song to sing with your primary students this Fall? Five Fat Turkeys is a popular one and here’s a little game I came up with to keep the kids interested, while providing plenty of opportunities to sing as a class.

After teaching the song, I wanted to make it the focal point of my lesson by reinforcing the song through repetition. I still had a drawing of a tree on the whiteboard from an earlier activity and this is the game that developed out of that.

  • Draw a tree on the white board and stick 5 turkeys on it with tape or magnets. I used die-cut turkeys.
  • Tell the class that they need to close their eyes so the turkeys can hide because, they think some of you are cooks!
  • With their eyes closed, take the turkeys off of the board and place them out of sight. Tell the class to open their eyes.
  • Choose a student to be the cook. While the class sings the song, the cook walks around and tries to guess where the turkeys are hiding.
  • Little do they know that you’ve hidden another set of 5 turkeys under their seats/sit spots before they arrived.
  • When the song is over, the cook get 1-3 guesses as to where a turkey may be hiding by pointing to another child’s seat.
  • The seated child checks underneath for a turkey. If a turkey is found, that child becomes the cook and the game repeats. If all of the guesses are used up and no turkey is found, you can appoint a new child to be the cook.

Hope your students enjoy this fun, fall song!

A Fun and Easy Singing Game for "Five Fat Turkeys" that your students will love to play in music calss this November! It's great way to boost your Fall elementary lesson plans for PreK, Kindergarten, and first grade! It's simple to play and requires almost no extra materials. Your primary students will ask for it again and again! #sillyomusic #elmused #musiceducation

How to Use Simple Routines for Classroom Management in the Music Room

Did you know that simple routines in your music classroom can knock out a majority of unwanted behaviors? If you don’t have a clearcut routine for most of your lessons, your students walk in not knowing what to expect. Routines also help students transition from activity to activity without feeling insecure. They are able to transition quickly and focus on other things like reading, composing, and listening.

Think about going to the grocery store, what if all the foods were in different aisles every week? Think about your bedtime routine, it’s usually the same every night, and that’s ok! It’s great to have spontaneous moments, but it’s also beneficial to give your students an idea of how your time together will be spent. Ensemble classes like band and chorus may lend themselves more toward a routine. Students know how much time they generally have to set-up, they also know that tuning and warm-ups come before rep. The same can be true for your general music classes. Do this by deleveloping a series of activities. Then plug in old objectives for new ones.

Here’s an example of what I mean:
1. Entering the room: have assigned seats, will students enter with music and/or movement? Pick out a hello song that lends itself to changing with your objective for the day.

2. Roll call. Sing roll or use a chant, just be consistent while also adding new twists as the year progresses.

3. Sing warm-ups. Don’t worry about being boring, children love repetition! Switch it up when you start getting bored, chances are you’ll get tired of the songs before they do. You can start with a simple tune that eventually becomes a round.

4. Review with some fun flashcard games tailored around your objective. You could also use whiteboard or powerpoint games.

5. Teach the new song you have picked out. Maybe on the first lesson, they will only learn the rhythm, and in the next lesson they will learn the melody. Then in their final lesson they will play a circle game with the song.

6. Review something new that you’ve learned with some centers activities or another whole group game. Maybe you will work on a project at the end of class. Taylor to your teaching needs, but be consistent.

7. Exit the same way every class. I’ve used good-bye songs with primary and with the older kids, something as simple as clap 1: stand, clap 2: turn, and clap 3: file out of the room, has worked for me.

Do what works for you, just be consistent! To hear an in-depth conversation on this subject, check out The Elementary Music Teacher’s podcast where I chat with Jessica about my journey in developing a routine!

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