For You, Today…….Workshops!

I’ve added a Workshop page to my blog for any of you who might be interested in hosting one of my workshops in your district or locale.  Check it out!

Red, White and Blue and Movie Maker, too!

Several years ago, I realized that our students were not spending enough time singing/learning patriotic song literature.  In elementary music instruction, we have SO many areas to address and for me, this area had gotten lost in the shuffle.  So…JoAnn and I sat down and compiled a list of the songs we wanted them to learn. I took that list and designed a patriotic component for our curriculum.

I organized them into patriotic streams and I made a movie for each grade level containing the songs, streamed together, from our list.  Kindergarten begins very simply and each successive grade adds songs/verses.  Even though it is definitely challenging for the littles, The Star-Spangled Banner is included in every grade level.

p streams pic

We introduce the streams at the beginning of the year and then sing them at random times through-out the year, also including them in the end-of-year activities. This continual exposure has definitely allowed our students to become familiar with these beautiful, meaningful songs!

I created a flipchart, linked the movies to the chart and linked the flipchart to my desktop so that it is always at my mousetip.  I use title pages like this for all of my units…it streamlines navigation of media during instruction.

Patriotic Flp pic

Unfortunately, I cannot share my movies because of copyright issues; however, I have provided a detailed list of the song material for each grade stream and the audio source for the music.  Click here.

TECHNOLOGY HINT:  I use Windows MovieMaker 2.6 to create all sorts of movies.  In particular, these movies have replaced all the word charts of yesterday.  Let me tell you, it is luxury to use a word chart movie in lieu of a tattered, hand written word chart.  LOVE!!!  Learning to make movies is a lot of work but it saves so much time and attention during instruction, it is time well spent!

Be advised….Windows Movie Maker 2.6 is not the latest movie maker product from Microsoft.  The latest version that comes with new computers does not have a timeline and is not efficient for my use.  When I teach a movie making workshop, I advise students to download the old 2.6.

SO, keep those flags waving and make some movies!



Rhythm Game

Over the years, I have collected a wonderful bag of tricks out of which I can pull a fun, high-interest game, song, activity, etc. for all those odds and ends times in instruction when you have a few extra minutes or when you all a brain break….like….the end of school!  🙂

Here is one of my favorites, the Rhythm Game.

Rhythm Game Pic

It is great for the second semester 2nd graders and beyond.  I have even taught it to intermediate students with great success!  It’s fun!!!

Instructions can be found here.

r game

YouTube demo can be found here.

Come See Me at TMEA!

I will be presenting a new session, Ta-Da! Developing Creative Artistry in Young Students, at the Texas Music Educators Association Clinic/Convention this week in San Antonio, Texas.   My session will be at 4:00 pm, Friday, in CC Ballroom C2.  Come by, say “Hello!” and get some new ideas!

I have officially opened a new Teacher Resource page on my blog where I will store a variety of documents and materials.   Let me know if you have questions about anything!

Nibble, Nibble Mousie!

The holiday season is my favorite time of year in the music classroom!  One of the many fun things we do is a study of opera and Hansel and Gretel in 3rd grade.  As you may know, my area of expertise is the voice.  I hold two vocal performance degrees and completed partial work toward a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in vocal performance. Needless to say, I love opera and it makes me very happy to see my students begin to love it, as well.

Here is a brief outline of our Hansel and Gretel/Opera unit:

Session I: Introduce the Brothers Grimm, fairy tales, and the story.

Session II:  Watch Bugs Bunny What’s Opera, Doc?  Intro opera.  Sing through songbook.

Session III:  Sing through songbook.  Listen to excerpts.  Discussion.

Session IV:  Sing through songbook.  Review opera.  Review concert etiquette.  Watch 1/3 of DVD.

Session V: Watch 1/3 of DVD.

Session VI:  Watch last 1/3 of DVD. Discuss.

(Click here for a detailed outline of the unit)

During student teaching, I found an adaptation of the entire opera, story and songs, in an old 1951 textbook.


Over the years, I have developed this little  jewel into a delightful songbook that perfectly matches the CD excerpts to which we listen. (click here to see CD)

When I originally introduced this unit, I used the 1954 claymation video,  Hansel and Gretel: An Opera Fantasy.  I immediately realized that it would not work; the kids did not like it!  So, I decided to jump in with both feet and chose the New York City Metropolitan Opera’s recording, Humperdinck: Hansel and Gretel  (1982).  Real, unadulterated opera!  Instant success!  The rest is history!

Our children hate the witch but LOVE this unit!!!

Oh, yes….one of the favorite parts of this…….

At the beginning of Session VI, we give a wee little gingerbread man cookie to each child and tell them to take a big sniff!  Then we encourage them to sniff the cookie to their heart’s delight but they may only begin to nibble the cookie when Hansel takes his first bite.    You can only imagine their eager little faces as they restrain themselves and await that first bite!  Pure delight!


P.S.  Be sure to check out the Opera/Musical Theater/Hansel and Gretel board on my Pinterest site, We Teach Music, for more ideas than you could possibly use!

Cable Kit Delight

Whew!!!  Another Christmas concert done and in the record book! Isn’t it just a whirlwind, getting everything ready the day of the concert?  Programs printed and folded…..risers set in place……sound system…..OH, WAIT…..the sound system!  Let me think…..“Which cables do I need and how do we connect it all?”  “Now, where was that cable?” 

Of course, we always figured it out, but, talk about a terrific waste of time and energy on a day that had none to spare!  So, several years ago, inspired by my dislike of chaos and powered by my penchant for problem solving, I created a handy dandy audio/video cable kit.


I bought a zippered nylon bag (10″ x 14″ x 3″) and a pack of velcro cable ties.  After collecting and labelling all the cables we use or could need, I folded and arranged them in the bag, marking each spot with a Sharpie.  Then, after removing all the cables, I sewed a cable tie on each mark in the bag and carefully re-folded and velcroed in each cable.  I enclosed several documents:  a reference chart of all the cables (including their kit number and description) and a set-up diagram for each audio/video configuration we use.  (click here to see pdf of our chart and diagram)


Voila!  No more angst over this part of concert set up!  And….BONUS…..I didn’t realize how much we would use it in daily music teacher life!  GRAB-N-GO, Baby!

Let me tell you, this idea is a WINNER and well worth the thought and effort required to assemble the kit!  🙂

A Round a Day!

When our students are really enjoying a song or activity, we often have an impromptu performance at the end of class and pull their homeroom teacher or even the principal in to watch and listen!


I wish you could have come to the end of our 4th grade class yesterday to hear them sing the three rounds we’ve been singing in class: Ghost of John, Old Abram Brown and Ah, Poor Bird.

Crop 1

  The children LOVE these songs and enjoy singing them, especially in round.  We see 1/2 of a grade level one day and the other 1/2 on the next day so after hearing the fabulous part singing from both sides, I was eager to ask the teachers if we could have the whole grade level perform it together.

Four giant parts!

Our school is arranged in grade level pods with the classrooms in each pod open to a common pod area.  I had the students stand along their classroom boundary facing the common area and the mini concert began.  Because all three songs are in d minor, we were able to sing them straight through.  We sang each song one time together, then two times in round, each part repeating the last phrase until all parts finished together.  It was spectacular!  The students and I had a blast and our audience was suitably impressed!  I call this MAGIC!


I presented a session, SIng Your Own Part, at Texas Choral Director’s Association convention this summer where I outlined methodology for developing part singing in children.  Let me tell you, rounds/canons are a vital and fun part of music.   I keep a suitable round or two (or three) going all through the year in 1st through 5th grade and also from year to year.  Children enjoy repeating great songs so consider singing the round as a single for one or two years, then as a round only after they know it very well and when it is developmentally appropriate to do so.  Remember, familiarity equals success in part singing!   Click here for a list of my favorite rounds and some helpful hints.

As you are developing a round, pay special attention to posture, diction, phrasing, tuning and tone.  This meticulous process will build voices and will be a springboard for great singing!  Also, rounds/canons  are easily accompanied by Orff instruments and make fabulous concert pieces.

Now….rounds……Thanksgiving…….oh, yes……..For Thy Gracious Blessings………..


“”Come into my parlor!” said the spider to the fly!”



Many of the littles in Kindergarten struggle with bravery at this time of the year as even the first peal of shivery music of the season can send them over the edge!  Since I want music to be FUN and not TERRIFYING, I begin our Silly Scary unit with familiar everyday scary things!

Of course, we sing Itsy, Bitsy Spider and then we play a game I found on Pinterest last year from   The children love the modified version and it provides wonderful opportunity for text extension, expression and vocal development.


I bought the non-scary, colorful, soft spiders from Walgreen’s last year.

Click here for a PDF of the song.

Click here for a list of songs/activities in my Silly, Scary unit.

A Little Mice Scarin’

I love this time of year in my classroom because it signals the beginning of a delightful string of holidays:  Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas!  The music of Halloween is especially fun….the interesting melodies and shivery themes provide wonderful opportunities to explore and experience music in delightful new ways and to develop the young voice.

My version of Up, Down, All Through the Town! works really well for K-2 and includes an Orff arrangement and chase game.  Click here for the complete PDF.


Because so many families in our school do not celebrate Halloween, we do not use the term Halloween, opting instead to call this body of songs and activities Silly, Scary Things.  I would like to share two traditional Halloween tunes/verses that I have modified so that they work beautifully with no mention of witches or such.

This little song/activity is my version of One Little Skeleton.

 This Is Fall

Be sure to take ‘lots of time to carefully pronounce each word and to sing gently and in tune the interesting pitches.  The Whoooo in this song provides great opportunity to use beautiful tone.  In fact, I use this song as an anchor song through the year when I need to remind students of singing with beautiful tone.  It works like a charm!  Click here for the complete PDF.

Next, we have my version of Stirring My Brew.


If you’ll use a shivery, open tone and relax the tempo of the phrases, you’ll find that this is a fabulous vocal development piece, especially the Oooh’s!   Children love the suspense of this verse, especially if you hold the fermata a loooong time before saying, “Boo!”  Another use of this piece is to experiment with tempo to practice slow and fast.  And, don’t forget the added fun of allowing students to lead the verse.  Click here for complete PDF.

Now, get out there and scare some mice!

Boo-ti-ful Pinterest!

While you’re getting geared up for the season, don’t forget to look over the Holiday-Halloween, Silly Scary Things, Monsters board on my Pinterest site, We Teach Music, for some great music classroom ideas!


We Teach Music has over 10,000 pins, organized onto 105 boards, all dedicated to elementary music education!  Boo-ti-ful!

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