Tag Archives: music education

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!

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!

 

 

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!

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.

Convenience

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….

Workload

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?

DO YOUR RESEARCH!

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!

Photo courtesy of http://www.layoutsparks.com/1/215745/piano-music-notes-keys.html

Here We Go!

This is my first attempt at blogging!

Looking forward to sharing my thoughts, feelings, experiences, and classroom anecdotes with the world.

It is my hope that I will be able to use this site as a reflection tool – we don’t always take the time to sit and reflect on the happenings of the day, what we did that went well, what we could have done better. After polling my PLN, I was told that blogging was one of the best methods out there to do just that! I’ve read numerous examples, collected ideas, and I think that I am ready to go.

I am also hoping that this will be a place to gather and help spread the word about resources that may be useful in the music education field. I never knew about the vast world of resources out there for music teachers before I joined Twitter and began to build my PLN. I’m hoping that by blogging and sharing my thoughts and what works for me, the resources and contacts that I have will increase tremendously!

Any and all comments are welcome – thanks for reading!

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