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 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

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!

4 People I’d Tell My First-Year Teacher Self to Run To or Run From

My first teaching job was an elementary general music position at 2 schools. One of the schools was toxic and chaotic, the other was friendly and supportive. Both taught me important lessons about the importance of choosing the right teacher friends.

The Timesucker vs. The Reciprocator

RUN FROM: The Timesucker

Timesuckers will constantly ask you to help them with favors small and large. They may ask for time, talent, or skills without anything in return, insist on talking to you during planning or after school when you are trying to get things done, or they may treat elective teachers like teacher assistants. Most of the time, they don’t realize how busy a music teacher’s day is. Don’t be afraid to guard your time and say no to this person. A simple “no, I am not able to help with that right now” is all you need.

Traits: self-centered, oblivious, talkative (even when you are in a hurry), manipulative

RUN TO: The Reciprocator

Find the reciprocators at your school as soon as you can and then aspire to be a reciprocator yourself. They are often a major reason why a school has a positive, healthy climate. Reciprocators will ask you for favors but will also help you when you need it. The reciprocator respects your time, and when you ask for help, they are happy to lend a hand. Someone that allows you to send children to their room for a break is a tell-tale sign of a reciprocator. We all need a buddy classroom sometimes! Veteran teachers and mentor teachers are often reciprocators because they’ve been where you are, they are rooting for you, and they see your potential.
Traits: kind, giving, loyal, helpful, perceptive, respectful

The Gossip vs. The Out-of-the-Looper

RUN FROM: The Gossip

Gossips will hurt you by spreading rumors or negative stories about you and other teachers. People are drawn to them because they always seem to have the inside scoop. But be warned, hanging around gossips can create a toxic and negative school environment for you. The worst kind of gossip will befriend for the sheer purpose of getting dirt on you and won’t think twice about sharing info with admin. They’ll stretch the truth to make you look bad. Associate with them with them only when you have to. Stay clear of the teacher’s lounge at lunch if you find the gossips often congregate there.
Traits: jealous, selfish, cliquish, competitive, attention-seeking 

RUN TO: The Out-of-the-Looper

Out-of-the-loopers make great friends! They aren’t interested in other people’s drama and care more about your successes as a teacher. They will be your biggest cheerleader and you will be theirs. They often march to the beat of their own drum, and are sometimes judged by others for being different. Students are their main focus and they don’t care much about what others think. You will hear them gush about their students often, and they can be trusted to give you kind and constructive feedback. This person will have your back! At my first school, this person was the art teacher. She was close to retirement and I was a newbie, but we had a magical bond and still do. Out-of-the-loopers can be hard to come by, so treasure them!
Traits: humble, caring, giving, quiet in large groups/meetings

With all that being said, in the end, you may never know a person’s true colors. Don’t judge anyone right off the bat and remain professional with everyone, including support staff. The person that rubbed you the wrong way when you first met, may end up being your best friend. 
It can be lonely being the new kid on the block. Make sure you go to lots of professional developments to learn from and connect with other music teachers. Networking is so important as a teacher and you may even be able to ask a seasoned teacher to mentor you. I find that teachers who present at P.D.’s are usually the kind of people who want to help newbies. If you can find a great mentor, you’ve hit the jackpot!