Category Archives: Music Education

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


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!

Day in the Life of a Backwards Musical Mind

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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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!

Being a “Paper Trained” Musician

Music note piano keys

I am a musician and I am a music educator. 

These are two of my favorite ways to describe myself and what I am passionate about. I also believe that being good at one makes you better at the other. When people hear that I am a musician, I usually get one of two responses:

  1. Wow, that’s awesome! Can you sing something/play something/write something for me?
  2. Wow, that’s awesome! We should totally jam sometime!

While I could write an entirely separate post on the first response, the second one is the one that frightens me the most. Why, you might ask? Well, I am what I like to call a “paper trained”musician.

I may not be the first to coin the term, but to me, being paper trained means that you can only play when you have a piece of music in front of you. In my case, I feel comfortable sight-reading pieces (piano, flute, vocal) up to a fairly high level of difficulty. Ask me to play from memory or to improvise something and I will shrivel into a tiny, musical blob.

Ok, you might say, just make sure you have music in front of you at all times and it won’t be an issue. To me, it still is. I don’t want to be the music teacher that has to say no when students ask me to perform something for them. I don’t want to be the person that just wants to sit and play the piano, but has to first fish out  a book or two to find the right piece. I was always jealous of the jazz kids in undergrad – they always looked like they were having so much fun and were so relaxed! While I loved studying classical music, I was always worried about getting each note perfect, something that I believe added to my reliance on physical music.

I didn’t realize how being paper trained really made a difference until I got into the classroom – specifically, my final semester of student teaching. I was matched with an incredible cooperating teacher who was the complete opposite of me – no paper training there! In fact, putting music in front of him (think Bach or Handel) would slow him down. He would often solely look at the guitar chords of  a piece and improv the piano part from them. He never played the same accompaniment twice, and I believe the students benefited from it. They, in turn, were less reliant on the piano and more self-sufficient.

Now that I have my own program and my very own students, I want to become less paper trained and more free with my playing and musicianship. Thankfully, I am still in the same district as my cooperating teacher (we were sharing a room up until this year), and we often joke that when put together, we make one complete piano player! I don’t want to pass my stiffness or my fear of not reading the music off of a sheet to my students – instead, I want them to feel confident  with improvisation, playing by ear, and creating accompaniments within given boundaries.

But how can I do that?

It starts by bettering myself and my musical abilities. In the past few years, I have:

  • Taken jazz courses
  • Taken theory courses (to become more familiar with chord voicings)
  • Begun listening to more jazz music
  • Practiced creating accompaniments from guitar chords
  • Continued to practice playing different styles of music (I tend to want to play the pretty, flowing stuff all the time)

In the end, our responsibility as music educators is to better ourselves so that we can then better our students. Don’t settle for what you know; always strive to learn more. NEVER stop learning! My hope is to look back in 35 years and know that I put in the effort to learn and achieve new things, and that my students were better because of it.

Are you “paper trained?” How do you deal with it, both in your personal and professional life? Are you at the other end of the spectrum? I would love to hear your comments and thoughts!

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What Happens After College?

Graduation - definitely something to sing about!I was recently asked to have an informal chat with a group of pre-service music educators about what happens once school is over – how to find a job, the interview process, and surviving the first year of teaching. It was quite an honor!

I began to worry that having only four years of teaching under my belt, none of which were the same position as the year before, put me at a disadvantage. What could I really have to offer these soon-to-be educators?  Here are just some of the things that we chatted about and some of the resources I was able to share with them:

 Finding A Job

  • In Pennsylvania, the first place that pre-service teachers want to look is PA REAP – most school districts post position, even if only for 24 hours, on this site. Creating a profile can be a bit tedious, but it is worth it in the end.
  • If you plan to teach in a state other than the one that is certifying you, start looking into “certificate reciprocity” – what you need to do to ensure that you can teach in another state. Each state’s requirements can be found HERE


  • Take as many as possible. No one really loves to go on interviews, but it is great practice!
  • Don’t let interviews get you down! If you leave with a not-so-great feeling, that job probably wasn’t the best fit for you or the district.
  • Bring organized documents and examples. I used an interview portfolio that contained my resume, certifications, letters of recommendation, sample lesson plans, concert programs that I had been a part of and anything else that I felt was relevant to who I was as a musician and teacher. A stack of disorganized papers that you have to dig through does not send a great message!
  • Be honest and be yourself! Don’t pretend to know something that you really don’t – it always shows. One of my favorite lines that I used when I was asked a question that I wasn’t sure of: “What I lack in experience, I make up for in ability to learn quickly and desire to better myself as a teacher.”

Surviving the First Year

  • Stay organized! I did not have a classroom or a desk my first and third years of teaching – I taught out of my bag and was always on the move! Even in the toughest of situations, organization is key – for your own sanity and for your reputation. If we expect the students to come prepared, we need to set a good example.
  • Professional Development: attend as many conferences and workshops that you and your pockets can handle! Not only do you gather wonderful resources for your lessons and classrooms, but you make new contacts that may prove invaluable in the future. Great organizations in the Philadelphia Area are:
      • PAOSA (Philadelphia Area Orff Schulwerk Association)
      • NAfME (National Association for Music Education)
  • Develop a PLN (Professional Learning Network)! This was the point that I stressed the most when speaking to the students. I cannot begin to describe the positive impact that joining and really using Twitter has had on my professional development. I never knew the amount of people out there that are willing to help and share with you, without even knowing you on a personal level. The connections I have made are incredible – we have shared lessons, encouraged one another, solved problems and even talked socially.
      • Use hashtags such as #musedchat, #edchat, #mused, and #mpln to find helpful advice and weekly chats that have to do with topics that interest you and are relevant to your position
      • Many of the points found in this post came from reaching out to my PLN using the above hashtags to ask what THEY would tell a pre-service teacher (thanks to @mecsings@jguarr@justine_robin, and @kfreesen for their contributions).

There are so many things to think about as you are getting certified and trying to find a job – these are just a few of them. If you had the chance, what would YOU share with pre-service educators? Please offer your advice and tips in the comments below!

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