By now, most people have seen the video about Mitchell Marcus, a developmentally disabled boy, and how he was treated with total kindness and sportsmanship during a high school basketball game. If you haven’t (grab the tissues!), or you just want to see it again, here it is:

I told you that tissues were needed!

As a teacher, it warms my heart to know that students out there understand the importance of treating others, especially those that may have things a bit harder than most, the way that we want to be treated.

For me, the best part about this video and the story that it tells is that it reminds me of MY students! I teach around 500 students each week, and the level of kindness and understanding that some of them show to their peers is mind blowing and beyond their years! Our developmentally challenged students aren’t shunned or made to feel left out in group scenarios; other students clamor to take those kids into their groups and under their wings for their time with me. Our students are empathetic, compassionate, and kindhearted….to the point where I have to take a minute to compose myself at times. The gym teacher has shared stories about scenarios in her classroom similar to the Mitchell Marcus video, and it makes me well up with pride just hearing how our students act when they think no one is watching.

There are always going to be a few “bad apples” in the bunch, but I am so proud to say that they are few and far between at my school. I feel lucky everyday to work in a community that raises such wonderful kids and with people that are committed to fostering this kindness in the future generation.

Turkey Gobbler Game

Sometimes I get on such a roll that I don’t always realize what is coming up….like holidays! Last week I realized that Thanksgiving was coming, whether I liked it or not, and started scouring my best friend Pinterest for ideas for upcoming lesson plans. I was lucky enough to find the song “Turkey, Turkey Gobbler” on two separate blogs – Music a la Abbott and Teaching Elementary Music: Tanya’s Blog. Each teacher had a different game to go along with the song. I used a combination of both to come up with something that would work well with my students and my space!

Here is a copy of the song – the picture is from Tanya’s blog post:

Turkey Turkey Gobbler

Here’s what I did with it:

  1. Teach the song – I sang it on a neutral syllable first and had the students identify which two lines are the same. Once we’ve talked about that, I teach them each line by rote until they can sing the whole song.
  2. Play the game – Students sit in a circle around the outside of my rug. I choose one student to be the “farmer” and they sit in the middle of the circle with their eyes closed and head down. The students still in the circle are the turkeys! The turkeys sing “Turkey, Turkey Gobbler” while I walk around the circle looking for the best behaved turkey. By the second line of the song, I tap a turkey on the head and they have to run and hide behind the piano. Once the song is over, the farmer has to open their eyes and figure out which turkey is missing from the farm! Since that can be hard for some students, they get a hint….the turkey that is hiding gets to give them a GOBBLE! The kids LOVE hearing what their classmates come up with!

Gobble Gobble

The game can go on for a while unless you put a limit on it – I let the turkey GOBBLE three times before I press the farmer to give an answer. If they are still stalling, I give them a 10 second warning and time them before asking the turkey to come out of hiding. They are allowed to say “stumped” if they just can’t figure it out….and some of them are tough! I gave 1st grade an extra hint and told them if the hiding turkey is a girl turkey or a boy turkey. However the round ends, the turkey becomes the next farmer and the teacher continues to pick turkeys.

I chose to have students hide in the room because I teach in a mobile classroom – it would be unsafe to have students outside of the classroom. I also was a bit wary of blindfolding a student – thought it might work for some, I had plenty of students in mind that it wouldn’t work with (I think we ALL have some of those)! I also used this song and activity on Parent Visitation Day – they LOVED it! Moms were videotaping their kids behind the piano and were cracking up at the various turkey sounds that were made!

I know it’s a bit late and you may not be able to use this for this school year – but keep it in mind for next year. There are TONS of extension activities that can be done (check out the blogs of the ladies mentioned above) or just use it as a fun game for the last day before break. Either way, it’s sure to get a gobble and a chuckle from everyone!


Happy Thanksgiving

Pinterest Inspiration #2: Curwen Hand Signs

My second Pinterest Inspiration comes from an awesome blog called Music with Mrs. Dennis – you will be seeing that name a lot in this Pinterest series because she has TONS of great resources, ideas, and printables!

Last year was my first in elementary music, and I introduced the kids to the Curwen hand signs. They loved them and even used them without being asked! In order to give them a visual, I bought these posters (and they weren’t that cheap!) and put them up on a cabinet that had some empty space. Because each hand sign is the size of a regular sheet of paper, they took up a lot of space – space I didn’t have in a central part of the room. This year, I wanted to have something that kids could all reference without having to turn completely around in their seats.

That’s where Music with Mrs. Dennis came in! She posted about her need for new hand signs and created some fabulous printables to go with them – lucky us! There are two versions: one with the names of the signs on them, and one without. I wound up printing both and will use them with different grades.

Hand signs2

I used my hot glue gun to attach some round magnets to the back, and they are displayed at the front of the room on my white board!

Hand signs1

If you would like these wonderful Curwen hand signs in your classroom, click through to the Music with Mrs. Dennis post and download her free printables!

What has been your favorite Pinterest discovery this school year? Share your finds in the comments below!

Pinterest Inspiration #1: Music Content Clouds

I’ve spent more time this school year planning for and setting up my classroom than any other, and Pinterest has been a HUGE inspiration. I plan to write a few short posts highlighting my favorite parts of the classroom and giving credit to those fantastic pins that sparked creativity and provided printables. If you’re interested in browsing my Music Ed related pin boards, check out my list here.

One of my favorite pins came from Rhythm and Glues, a wonderful blog written by a music teacher and an art teacher. They have great stories and tips, this little gem included! These content clouds originally came from the blog Just a Little More, but the ladies at Rhythm and Glues were the ones that created and offered the free printables that I used for my classroom.

Content Clouds

These clouds are currently hanging above my whiteboard in the classroom. They are each numbered and have a musical symbol with its name, a 4-beat melody, and a rhythm.

Content Cloud Close-up

To print these out in a bigger size, I inserted the pictures into Excel – when printing, I adjusted the settings to allow me to print across two pages instead of one. I printed, cut them out (that took a while!), taped them together, laminated, and then re-cut before hanging them up. In the future, I would like them to be slightly bigger so that they are visible in all areas of the room, but these will be great for this year. I plan to use them for scavenger hunts, symbol recognition, rhythm recognition and a variety of other ways.

If you would like to use these cute musical content clouds in your classroom, click through to the Rhythm and Glues post and download their free printables!

What has been your favorite Pinterest discovery this school year? Share your finds in the comments below!

School Year Planning with Pinterest!

The school year here in PA is rapidly approaching, and as organized as I claim myself to be, I am scrambling a bit to get everything done. Summer just seemed to go by so quickly, and August definitely took me by surprise!

One of the biggest resources that has helped me find lessons, organization and set up ideas, as well as new PLN members is….PINTEREST! If you are not familiar with the site, Pinterest is a way to collect interesting and useful sites and information in one place. I know I’ve definitely had an instance or two when I’ve wanted to go back and reference something, but just can’t seem to remember where I found it! Pinterest helps you to avoid those issues!

Julie2884's Pinterest Page

My Pinterest Page

I use Pinterest not only for school organization, but also for items that I love, recipes, and DIY projects that I plan to make. You can create as many boards as you would like and there isn’t a limit to the amount of pins you can have in each (as far as I know). The general rule of thumb on Pinterest is to give credit where credit is due: if you find a picture of a great classroom set up on a Google search, don’t pin from there. Trace the picture back to its source so that the original poster gets credit for the image. I would hate to think that someone else is taking credit for any of my pictures or posts, so I don’t pin anything that doesn’t have a source.

If you’re like me, you are always looking to find new and interesting resources and people in the music education field. For your pinning pleasure, I have included all of my Music Ed related boards below so that you may browse and repin if you would like. If you find me to be one of those new and interesting people, feel free to follow me (Julie2884)!

Music Ed Blogs to Follow Board

School Stuff Board

Classroom Organization Board

Holiday Music Activities Board

General Music Games Board

Music Board  (random Music-related pins)

Music Ed Musings Board (links from my blog)

Some boards have more pins than others, but they are all a work in progress. I plan to re-organize as I find more valuable resources, making more specific boards that are easier to search for.

There is also an Elementary Music Classroom Ideas Board that has some great pins on it – it is a collaborative board that allows multiple pinners. What’s great about a board like this is that someone else may find something that you haven’t. I have also found myself liking certain ideas that I probably wouldn’t have looked at otherwise! If you would like to contribute to this fabulous board, pop into the Facebook Music Teachers Group and let the creator, Joe Pisano, know!

Pinterest is now available on the iPhone, iPad and Android devices.

I would love to see your Music Ed related boards, so feel free to share your user name or URLs  in the comments below!



App review: Teacher Pal

Great app for keeping track of multiple classes, behavior issues, seating arrangements (saves paper), and grades. Thanks, Catie!

The Celtic Novelist

Now that I’ve had a little experience teaching I’m in the process of changing and improving the way I do things to make it easier for me and give me more time with my students. One of the biggest things I have spent almost 6 months looking into is the perfect tools to replace my word and excel documents for attendance, grades, and behavior. Every quarter I have to place grades into sheets for teachers. To get those grades I spend at least 20-30 minutes combined a day to add the grades in. My classes are back to back most days with about 20 seconds in between for transition times. I don’t have a ton of time to spend inputting grades. So what I began searching for was an Ipad app that could do everything I wanted. An Ipad app would allow me to be mobile, start class on time…

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Awww, Shucks…Now You’ve Made Me Blush!

Wanted to repost here since it contains some of my favorite Music Ed people!

Adventures with Veggies

I have only been at this blogging thing for a short time now – I write two blogs, this one and a blog about my adventures as a music educator. Both are just starting out, with around 10 posts each, and each has very modest statistics. So, I was pleasantly surprised when Facetious Firecracker (freakin’ hilarious blog – go read it now!!) nominated Adventures with Veggies for the “One Lovely Blog Award” and the “Sunshine Award” – THANK YOU!

Of course, there are rules that go along with these things! Check it out:

One Lovely Blog Award

  • Rules are as follows:
    • Link back to the blogger who nominated you
    • Paste the award image on your blog
    • Tell 7 Facts About Yourself
    • Nominate 15 other blogs that you would like to give the award to.
    • Contact the bloggers that you have chosen and let them know about the award.

Here are…

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What I Learned From My First Year in Elementary Music

Now that the school year has ended and summer school teaching has wound down for me, I finally have a chance to reflect on my first year as an elementary music teacher. My first three years in the field were spent at the middle school level – what a change it has been! I was so used to the attitudes, the resistance to learning, and an overall negative aura in classes (these were general music classes – where students got dumped if they were not in a performance group), that I was taken aback when I began teaching my new students last September!

I have learned so much from this year that I wanted to get some of it down to remember. Of course, this year has taught me so much more than I can fit in this post, but these were definitely some of the highlights (in no particular order):

  • Keep a stockpile of tissues and hand sanitizer at all times! As cute as they are, elementary kids are a walking pile of germs! In one year alone, I’ve seen enough nose-picking and pants-digging to make a grown man cry!
  • Never underestimate what elementary kids can do. Coming from the middle school level, where I was able to make wonderful music with the choirs, I felt like I wouldn’t be able to accomplish much with younger kids. I was happily mistaken! These kids LOVE to be challenged! The musical ability of students as young as 1st grade astonished me and I realized that elementary is incredible because of just that – I am the one that gets to foster these abilities and instill a passion for music in these students before they get to MS.
  • Communication is key! Even though this applies to every level of teaching, I found that I made more phone calls and wrote more emails this past year than I did in the last two years of teaching combined! Parents WANT to be involved at this age, something that differs slightly from the MS level. Once they leave elementary, I have found that a lot of parents dismiss music as “not a real class.” I found that elementary parents want to know how their children are doing and how they can improve when they are in my room. It’s actually quite refreshing and has gotten me over my dislike for making phone calls.
  • Homemade is always better. I never expect to receive anything from my students, so I am always grateful when they think of me for special occasions. I have come to learn that while store bought cards are very sweet, I really love the homemade cards and gifts that I’ve received. I love how many different ways children spell my name and the crooked letters make them so much more endearing! I make sure to keep a file of things I’ve received for one of those not-so-happy days….they are sure to make me smile!
  • Celebrate the little things. Elementary school children are small, but they have such huge hearts. They have taught me that even the smallest triumphs and successes can and SHOULD be celebrated!
So there you have it – some of the lessons that my new cherubs taught me throughout the year. I am honestly looking forward to going back; I have yet to have the same position for two years in a row, so I am excited to watch these kids grow and mature. Elementary was definitely a wonderful move for me!
What are some of the lessons you learned this year? Please share them below!

A Special Moment

          About two weeks ago, my third grade recorder students, along with my fourth and fifth grade chorus put on their first Spring Concert under my direction. Before accepting this position, I was a middle school chorus and general music teacher, so this was a first for me. Working for and trusting me to lead them for this concert was a first for them, also, so there was a lot of trust involved. We did two shows, one for the students and teachers of our school during the day, and the actual concert that night for the parents and families. Both performances went well (though the nighttime concert was a bit smoother) and I have received nothing but positive feedback from my principal, the parents, and the kids.

I was expecting behavior issues from some students and a few minor logistical issues, but I was definitely not ready for the moment that I had with a third grade recorder student before the start of the evening performance. As the principal and I were calling all of the recorder players up to the stage to take their places, one little boy passed us and he was clearly upset – eyes and face were red, tears were on his cheeks. This particular young man happens to be on the spectrum, so I was especially concerned and approached him as he took his spot. I asked him if he was alright, and he assured me that he was.

I walked away but a few minutes later noticed that he was still visibly upset. I led him off the stage (this was before we had officially started the program) and behind the curtain where I had stashed a bottle of water for such situations. I let him take a couple of sips before letting him know that it is perfectly normal to be nervous during a concert and that it was all going to be great, especially since we had already practiced during the daytime performance. This young man looked me right in the eyes, with tears still streaming down his cheeks and said, “Ms. M., I’m not upset because I’m nervous, I’m crying because I’m just so happy!” With that, he grabbed his recorder, tears still falling, and scurried back to his spot on stage.

This little boy’s comment just about knocked the wind out of me – I had to stay behind the curtain for a moment to recompose myself before walking back out. I made sure to let the principal in on the moment that I had just had, and tears filled her eyes as well. Our student’s pure joy and excitement at the prospect of performing was overwhelming – for him AND for me! What a reassuring comment for a new elementary teacher to hear, even if this boy didn’t realize it. This special moment is one of those little gems that remind us that what we do makes a difference and that it has a purpose. When I shared what happened with his mom last week, she assured me that her son would not forget the concert and his music teacher; I assured her that I would not be forgetting her son and the moment that he shared with me!

Have you ever had one of those moments at a concert or at any other time? Please share your experiences in the comments below!

Is an Online Music Degree Right for You?

Online DegreeI am about to begin the very last class in my online Masters degree in Music Education and I am EXCITED to say the least! It’s been quite a journey and I am thankful that I was able to get my degree while teaching full time in a wonderful district. Even though I love being a student, I am ready to have some more free time in my schedule for other things that I love, like relaxation! 😉

When I began researching grad schools, I knew that I had quite a few options: I could go back to school and take classes at night (going back to school without working was not an option), I could take a summer intensive program, or I could get my degree online. After weighing all of the different options and doing a lot of research, I chose the online option.

There are pros and cons to every choice, both professionally and personally. Below, I have listed some considerations when choosing a particular program and how they relate to my experience.


Because I am a working professional, the convenience of an online program was one of the biggest draws for me, particularly because it saved me the hassle of commuting to campus (all of the local universities are at least 30 minutes from me). I also liked that even though each class started on a certain date, I was not required to log in at a particular time.

What I learned very quickly was that, although the lack of a commute is very convenient, many aspects of the classes are scheduled and required. Several of the courses required our attendance at scheduled “live classrooms” during the week. Because we were not in a typical classroom setting, there were often 100+ students in each class, so we were divided into sections with different facilitators. We were often asked to meet with our facilitators in a live classroom setting during the week as well.

Duration of Program

Another huge draw to my program is that each class is only 7 weeks long as opposed to the typical class length of 14 weeks. That schedule has allowed me to finish my degree in less than two years, and that included a leave of absence because I wanted to wait for a particular class for my elective. In my research, I did not find an on campus program that offered 7 week classes instead of the longer duration, but choosing an on campus program would have allowed me to take more than one course at a time.

One of the drawbacks of having such short classes is the fact that each class is 4 credits worth of work – which means a TON of work in a short amount of time! Throughout the duration of this program, I have ALWAYS had something to do, something to read, something to post or something to research. Which brings me to….


Many people think that choosing an online program may equal less work, but I can honestly say that I had a completely different experience! In an online environment, the only way to convey understanding is to hand in assignments. I’ve written more papers in the last year and a half then I did in all of my high school and undergrad career! The reading starts to add up as well – we were told that we should “read like a grad student” in order to stay on top of things. I’ve even acquired a spiffy set of reading glasses from all of my hardwork.

Relevance to Your Field

When choosing a grad program, you have to be sure that it is relevant to your field and what your goals are. The drawback to choosing an online program is the lack of human contact and ability to create truly personal relationships with classmates and professors. Another issue to consider, especially in music, is the lack of a performance aspect in an online setting. As an undergrad music ed major, I was required to take lessons on my major instrument, as well as piano, and perform in juries at the end of each semester. Personally, I missed the performance aspect in this degree and would love to have had the opportunity to see/hear my classmates show off their abilities.

Do I think that I made the right choice with an online Masters program? For me, yes. Do I think the online setting for this particular degree is for everyone? Definitely not. My advice?


Know what is important to you. Make sure you understand everything that you are getting into. If you’re considering an online program, make sure it is accredited. Most of all, know what you are looking for and don’t compromise.

What type of program did you choose for continuing your education? Would love to hear your opinions on each type of program in the comments!