Music With Mrs. Tanenblatt

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Three Things Linkup

Happy Sunday, everyone! I hope those of you who are back to teaching have spent some time this weekend relaxing and recharging. My husband I enjoyed spending time in our pool this weekend while the weather is still nice and warm. Now, I'm reflecting back on my lessons from this past week, which was our first week back at school. I'm linking up with Aileen Miracle at Mrs. Miracle's Music Room to share three things that went really well this past week! 

At the beginning of the school year, I believe very firmly that the first few music classes should focus on practicing rules/routines and community building rather than jumping straight into teaching content. It is so important to me that my students feel comfortable to try new things and make mistakes when they are in my music class. If we don't spend that time getting to know each other within a musical context, then the rest of the year feels disjunct and forced. For that reason, all of my lessons this week focused on introductions, name games, and ice breaker activities.

1. Thumper Name Game

I wanted to do something different with my intermediate students this week. So I brought in a game from my childhood. I remember playing this game all the time with my friends in elementary school. However, an internet search turned up no results for the source of the song and game. So I took it upon myself to transcribe it so I could share it with all of you. Click on the picture below to download the song and gameplay directions.

Note: I have no formal Kodály training (yet!) so I don't have very much experience in transcribing or collecting folk songs. If you have any comments or questions about the content, PLEASE let me know! Constructive criticism is always welcome :)

When I taught this game to my class this week, we started out with a simplified practice version. In the practice version, you don't pick other kids' names at random. Instead you go around the circle, each person saying the name of the kid next to him/her. That reduces kids' anxiety because they know exactly when their turn will arrive. They can also practice saying the names ahead of time.

Once they have practiced a bit, you can really let loose and have them get competitive with it, if they are the kind of class that enjoys that sort of thing!

2. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

I love this book! I'm sure I don't have to waste too much time singing the praises of Eric Carle here, but just in case this classic children's book is not already in your library, here is a link to purchase it. I'll just say that my students love the familiarity of the format and catch on quickly when we read it. I actually sing the words to the first phrase on so mi and la (s-m-s-m-ss-l-s-m) and the next phrase on fa-re-so (f-rr-f-r-ff-s-f-r.) 

Then, when we finish reading and singing the book, it turns into a game:

I replace the animals with children's names. So if it's Judy's turn, the whole class sings, "Judy, Judy, what do you see?" Then she must pick another student and sing, "I see [another student's name] looking at me." This is a great way to get students to open up and sing on the first day of school. (If a child is feeling very shy and doesn't want to sing out, I will walk over to him/her with Arpeggio the Cat and give the child the option to whisper softly into Arpeggio's ear instead of singing out loud. That usually works like a charm.)

I often have students begging to play this game again and again after the first day of school!

3. Getting to Know You BINGO

I made this game at the suggestion of someone in a Music Teachers Facebook Group. A teacher was asking for suggestions for getting-to-know-you bingo prompts. I offered to put them together on this bingo card and then gave it to everyone in the group for free.

It's actually still available for free in my Teachers Pay Teachers store, so you can download it for free if you'd like to use it in your classroom.

I played this with my fifth graders and everyone had a great time. It gets kids up, moving around, and talking to each other about music. The rules are as follows: Each student gets a bingo card. They must walk around and find a classmate who can do the thing in each square. When I did this with my fifth graders, I also added the rule that they could only put a single person's name on their card one time. Standard bingo rules apply: in order to win, students must be able to fill in four in a row or four in a column, or four diagonally across.

I also told my fifth graders there would be a prize if anyone was able to fill their card by the next day. And one dedicated student was able to do it! He told me that once I posed the challenge, he couldn't think about anything else until he had done it! I'd call that a successful music class.

I hope you like these three ideas. They all worked great in my classes this week and I can't wait to share more next Sunday. Don't forget to see what everyone else has been up to by checking out Mrs. Miracle's Music Room!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Cart Tour 2015

This time of year, it seems like everyone is posting pictures of their new classroom decorations and beautiful instrument set-ups. (Since I have a portable at one of my schools, I actually just wrote one such post yesterday.) I know that this can be a difficult time for those of us who approach the new school year from a very different perspective. Yes, I'm talking about the brave souls who teach music on a cart.

Just over a year ago, I found out that due to increased enrollment at one of my schools, I would have to give up my teaching space and push-in to the gen. ed. classrooms. At first I was devastated. I had no idea how I would adapt my methods to make them work under such conditions. However, I've developed some routines and systems that work for me and make teaching on a cart a decent experience both for me and the kids. 

So I've decided to start a miniseries dedicated to the unsung heroes of music education. Those of us who have learned to make the best of a tough situation, for the sake of our students. Those who have learned to problem solve and think on our feet when resources may be limited. Those teachers who are responsible for "Music on Wheels."

Cart Tour 2015

I'm kicking off this miniseries with a back-to-school tour of my cart. I'm going to go through what I decided to put on it and how I keep it organized. When space is at a premium, decisions about what goes and what stays are super important. I also dressed my cart up a little bit to make it more interesting as I roll through the halls. 


This is a Luxor brand cart: it's all industrial strength plastic and has a built-in power strip. The plastic design makes it super lightweight and maneuverable, and it is the perfect height for me so that I don't have to hunch over at all when I'm pushing it. I totally lucked out because this cart was donated to me by another teacher at my school who wasn't using it. So I didn't have to spend any of my budget on it. However, a quick internet search brings up this A/V cart, which I'm pretty sure is the same exact one I'm using. For under $200, it is practically a steal compared to some of the "music carts" marketed by the big music school supply chains. 

You'll notice that I don't actually have any technology on this cart. I know that some teachers bring a boombox or speakers around with them. I guess I'm pretty fortunate in the tech department because every classroom in my school has a wall-mounted smartboard and wired-in sound system (because we are Title I.) So, rather than fumbling to try and plug in my own technology in each classroom, I just hop on the classroom computer. I have all of my electronic presentations and audio files on a flash drive. All I have to do is plug and play. 

The space that I saved by not having technology is chock full of instruments and teaching supplies. 

Hover over the spots on this ThingLink to see what I keep on my cart:

And here's a more detailed breakdown...

Bottom Shelf
  • Class set of egg shakers
  • Class set of rhythm sticks
I find it's important for my primary students to have enough of these instruments so that everybody is playing the same thing. Of course I also let them use the other instruments as well. But, from a management standpoint, I like everyone to be playing the same instrument when we're doing rhythm review exercises, etc. 
  • Mini djembes and conga drums
I have about six of them all together and they are small enough to fit in the plastic storage bin. 
  • One set of handbells
  • Five glockenspiels built into yellow carrying cases
I specifically chose this set of glocks because they can be stacked and transported easily and the sound is not terrible. They have a full chromatic keyboard, too.
  • Boomwhacker Xylotote
The xylotote is a brilliant invention!!! The cloth carrier keeps one diatonic set wrapped up nice and compactly. It can be opened up and played like a xylophone with rubber mallets, or each boomwhacker can be taken out and played the usual whacky ways.
  • Class set of scarves for movement activities
  • Medium djembe for teacher use and student performances
Middle Shelf
  • Three bins holding various class percussion instruments, such as guiros, claves, wood blocks, triangles, finger cymbals, tambourines, and hand drums.
  • Set of five remo stacking hand drums.
Top Shelf
  • Work space where I keep my plan book open and ready
  • Office supplies organizer (so I don't have to search through other teachers desks for basic stuff)
  • Big basket for holding papers and Arpeggio the Cat
  • Cannister to hold mallets and pointers
  • Small baskets for manipulatives, books, anything else I need for that day

So there you have it... That's the breakdown of my cart. I know it doesn't hold everything that you'd find in a typical music room, but it holds enough to give my students a high quality musical experience. It served me well last year and I'm looking forward to using it again. Even though I don't have my own classroom, I still feel like I have my own little space when I'm with my cart. I'm also lucky enough to have an "office" of sorts... it's a work room in the back of a kindergarten classroom:

As you can see, lots of different teachers use this space. I get to keep my cart here and have a little desk area in the corner. I'm working on getting a laptop to use again this year so that I don't have to go to the computer lab to plan the digital parts of my lessons!

Thanks for reading! I hope this miniseries resonates with those of you who might be in a similar situation and teaching "music on wheels" this school year! You are doing good work for your students, no matter what obstacles you may face. Remember my motto: Just roll with it!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

What's on My Wall!

It's hard to believe that our first week back at school is almost over. So far, I've been having a great time getting to know my classes and meeting new students that I did not teach last year. Before it's too late, I wanted to hop on that "classroom reveal" bandwagon. I am linking up with Tracy King over at Mrs. King's Music Room to share "What's On My Wall!" Make sure to read all the way to the end because I'm also including a FREEBIE to download!

I'm so glad to get to participate in this linkup since I actually had a room to decorate this year! Since I teach itinerantly, it's always up in the air whether I'm going to have my own space at various schools. (I'm on a cart at my other school, so I'm planning to do a whole post on my cart organization some time in the near future.) This year, I have a portable all to myself at one school. So here it is:

I know I still have some blank spaces to fill- like a whole bookshelf where my new Spotlight on Music textbooks will be going- and plenty more anchor charts and student work as the year progresses. 

Here's a breakdown of some of my favorite parts of the room:

Front of the room and my rug
I am opting for no chairs this year... there aren't even any in the classroom! Hopefully I won't get too many complaints from kids about this. But I plan to keep them up and moving frequently, so the chairs really just get in the way.

I don't have a smart board at this school, but I do have a pull down screen and projector. I use a wireless mouse on a clipboard that I pass around when I want to have a student take a turn using something interactive on the computer.

Under the chalkboard

Under the chalkboard, I set up a tempo race track (the faster tempos are winning the race, obviously.) Next are my recorder fingering charts. They're actually from before I started selling my resources on TpT so they're not all "dressed up." Then I have a poster that says "What country's music are we studying today?" next to a map of the world, so I can point out where our music comes from.

"I Can" Statements
(I know, I know... I put my flags up backwards!!! I'm going to fix that first thing on Monday when I'm back in that room!!!)

I use my dry-erase board for my daily objectives, which are posted in the form of "I Can" statements. This adorable set came from I <3 Teaching Music. The set also came with the new national standards cards in a very kid-friendly format, so I posted those underneath the board.

Above the board, which I know is hard to see because of the glare, sorry, it says "Music are what feelings sound like." To the right of the board, I put up my solfege ladder. This set is specifically color coordinated to match my boomwhackers, xylos, and hand bells. You can pick it up from my store here.

Back of the room - reference section
In the back of my classroom I have posted my note values anchor charts and Thinking Maps (Thinking Maps are a county-wide initiative so I am always looking for ways to include them in my music lessons.) I've got a nice dry-erase board with staff lines, which is currently on top of the piano. 

Minion Themed Bulletin Board
This bulletin board is really just for fun! It's already grabbed quite a few kids' attentions at they line up right next to it. Inside the folder, I placed a Beethoven coloring page that kids can take home or complete if they are an early finisher. I plan to teach a lesson on Beethoven later in the school year, so hopefully this bulletin board will build interest for that.

My small- but growing- instrumentorium
Don't worry- I have access to many more instruments than this! Since I'm the part-time teacher at this school, most of the orff instruments and a TON of other class percussion is housed in the other music teacher's classroom. We collaborate and share materials constantly. So I only have a few basic go-to instruments in here, like a class set of rhythm sticks and some basic percussion.

The blue poster is one of my favorite quotes from Leopold Stokowski: "A painter paints his pictures on canvas. But musicians paint their pictures on silence." I frequently reference it when I'm asking students to be quiet.

The poster with the guitar came from my local Target, but it's also available from And it's only $5! I showed it to my husband- who is a guitarist- and he insisted that I buy another one to frame and put in our basement.


Last, in the corner of my room, I present to you: MEGADESK. I know that there's a growing trend on Pinterest for teachers to get rid of their desks altogether (my school's custodian was complaining about having to remove a ton of desks this year.) I guess that makes me old-fashioned then because I love having my own little retreat in the corner of the room. So I put three tables together to create MEGADESK. Obviously I don't sit there while I'm teaching. But I love having all that space to spread out and get to work on projects. It's like my own little fortress.

I've surrounded my personal workspace with things that inspire me: The blue sign above my computer says, "Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try" which I bought after my first year teaching. That first year was a rough one for me and I thought about leaving the teaching field. But my husband encouraged me to give it another year and really have a mindset to try and give it my all. And guess what? I'm still here!

On the other wall, I have a rally towel for the Baltimore Orioles (Let's Go O's!) and another personal favorite quote. This one is from Dr. Edwin Land: "An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail." 

I also made a set of little positivity posters with some tidbits of inspiration on them. They're perfect to look at on a lousy day when I need a reminder of why I do what I do. I'm giving this away for free, so go ahead and download the complete set of four! They each fit in a 4x6 picture frame, or you can just staple them to the wall like I did.

At the top of the wall I printed out my name using these beautiful sheet music letters. Tanenblatt has a lot of letters in it, so there was a lot of cutting and trimming laminate going on here.....

So there you have it! I hope you liked the tour of my room! If you're still looking for classroom decor, you can find some of my pieces here in my TpT store.

Don't forget to check out Mrs. King's Music Room to get a peek at what other teachers are doing!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Three Stars and a Wish: First Day of School

Another first day of school has come and gone... I can definitely say that it gets easier every year, as I feel more confident in teaching my music class routines and procedures. As I decompress after another exhausting but successful first day, I thought this would be a great time for a three stars and a wish!

First and foremost, I am so happy to finally have working air conditioning again! The A/C was broken when I returned from summer break to set up my portable at one of my schools. They had to call an outside company to fix it so it was a time consuming process. 

In the meantime, I had to get my classroom ready for students, air or not. It was SUPER slow going (if you've ever been in a portable, you know that they trap in the heat like a tin can) but I got it done. And the repair folks were working in my portable at 7:00 this morning and got it up and running just in time for students! Can you say, "ahhhh!"

When I think back to my first year teaching, that first day of school was ROUGH. I remember not really having any idea what to expect, and feeling blindsided when I had to deal with a special needs student getting into a physical fight with another child. I'm not ashamed to admit that I cried in the principal's office at the end of that first day. Now, a few years later, I can happily report that nothing of that nature has happened since. And even if it did, I have many more tools in my "teacher toolkit" to resolve a situation like that. 

They have re-arranged the schedule at this school so that I have two first grade classes for the last hour of the day. I'm very used to having them last and I LOVE ending my day with these sweet children. When we went over our class rules, I asked my students to explain what it means to "be respectful" and one adorable girl said, "show gratitude." How amazing is that? I'm sure we could all use a little more gratitude in our lives.

This year, I am assigned to do lunch duty. I was extremely anxious about it because it's a responsibility I've never had before. If you know me personally, you know that I like to be prepared for everything and don't like unexpected things thrown at me... But as a teacher, unknowns are pretty much par for the course! There was some confusion during the clean up/lining up for recess portion of lunch duty, because last year the kids went back to their classroom instead of directly outside for recess. So half the students went to line up in one part of the cafeteria while the other half lined up somewhere else. When the classroom teachers came in to get their kids for recess they were understandably confused about why kids were lining up everywhere! That was a major fail for me. But as I tell my students, "mistakes are how we learn!" Now I know for next time that I have to be much more explicit when giving directions about lining up. I'm sure that particular task will go much better the next time I do it. 

All things considered, I'm very happy with how the first day of school went this year. I am happy to get to know a new group of students and I'm so excited that I get to be the one to bring music into their school lives!

{Three Stars and a Wish, or 3SW, was inspired by a popular method of peer critique: you point out three things that worked well and one thing you wish for improvement. I use it as a means for personal reflection of my teaching. If you would like to share your own 3SW, download the template here and linkup below.}

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

August Music Education Blog Carnival

I am happy to announce that I am hosting the August Music Education Blog Carnival! I have curated a collection of excellent blog posts from the past month and I hope you enjoy browsing them. Hopefully they will inspire you to try something new this school year! 

First up, here's a collection of blog posts to help you get yourself- and your classroom- ready for the new school year:

  • Back to School Teacher Fear: Will They Remember Anything?
    by Sandra Hendrickson at Sing Play Creatively
    In this post, Sandra breaks down what her first lessons look like at the beginning of the school year and addresses every teacher's secret fear: that students will have forgotten everything over the summer break! Fortunately, if you are prepared for the new school year like Sandra, you can offset some of that fear. Make sure you read all the way to the end of this post- there's a freebie in there, too!
  • Puppies and Middle School Children: Some Classroom Management for Back to School
    by Dale at In The Middle with Mr. D
    WARNING: This blog posts contains extreme puppy cuteness. Approach with caution!!! But seriously, Dale makes some very clever connections between training his new puppy and using effective classroom management strategies in his middle school choral classroom. I think this is the perfect time of year to reflect on how we want to approach our classroom management techniques and how we want to let our unique personalities as teachers- and as regular people!- shine through to our students. 
  • Three Ways to Prepare for the New School Year
    by Aileen Miracle at Mrs. Miracle's Music Room
    Aileen shows us three very impressive ways that she uses technology to help plan: First she has posted two very detailed videos that go over how to create a song list and song index to help you work on your long range/curriculum planning. These are especially helpful if you are like me and go cross-eyed every time you work in Excel. Then she introduces her new podcast, which I am very excited to start subscribing to. Maybe this will be what I listen to at the gym now, since I've finished listening to season one of Serial...
  • My Superhero Theme for the Year
    by Linda at Floating Down the River
    What I love most about Linda's classroom theme is that it extends far beyond just cosmetic classroom decor items. She has put some serious thought into supporting her theme with literature and she even incorporates the superhero theme into her classroom management strategies with a superhero of the day and superhero equity sticks. She has even shared her theme on TpT so you can have a class of superheroes as well!
  • Need a Magnet? Pack Rat Success!
    by Sally Utley at Sally's Sea of Songs
    This short and sweet post has a priceless tip for recycling old magnets. I know that there are a lot of teachers who spend hundreds of dollars out of their own pockets each year to get their classrooms set up. Tex deductible or not, I think it gets a bit out of hand! Sally is so clever to have thought of doing this, and it looks like her room is ready!
  • Music Rules
    by Mrs. Martin's Music Room
    I love these class rules because they are succinct yet thorough. Mrs. Martin has just three main rules- which is perfect because most research suggests that students will only respond to 3-5 main rules. However, she includes bullet points under each one to clarify or explain what they mean. I find that especially with my young students, you can't just say "be respectful" because they may not know what that looks like, sounds like, or feels like. In this post, Mrs. Martin leaves no room for questioning the rules because each one is thoroughly explained in kid-friendly language.
  • First Day of Music Emoji Activity
    by Molly at Ms. Patrician's All-Star Music VA
    This sounds like the PERFECT activity to start off the school year! Connect to students by doing something they love and also teach them critical skills such as listening and responding to music. I am already thinking of ways I can adapt this lesson to work with my students using our school iPad cart...

Maybe you're already prepared or your school year has already started? Check out these bloggers' great suggestions for high quality lessons and teaching strategies:

  • Teacher Tuesday: Why I Listen to the Radio Every Day
    by Elizabeth Caldwell at Organized Chaos
    I agree 100% with Elizabeth's perspective in this blog post. She describes the reasons why she incorporates pop music into many of her lessons. It is so important for our students to see that "their" music and "our" music are actually made of the same stuff. I love how Elizabeth considers listening to the radio to be free professional development. I listen to several pop music stations in the car every day (I NEED to have music on during my commute) and I agree that it is so important to include it in the music room.
  • Classroom Groups with Craft Sticks
    by Tracy King at Mrs. King's Music Room
    There used to be a time when I would look at classroom teachers and their little can of popsicle sticks with envy. I thought to myself, "there's no way I could make that work with 300+ students." But Tracy has come up with an excellent way to organize her students into groups using these sticks. By writing more than one thing on each stick, students can be grouped a number of different ways. AND there is a subtle reinforcement of music terminology at the same time! I'd call this a win-win!
  • View Pure: Another Safe Alternative to YouTube
    by Jennifer at The Yellow Brick Road
    In this post, Jennifer shares a fantastic resource for sharing YouTube videos without all of the potentially inappropriate ad content. She shares some of the awesome little features that View Pure has, like custom start times and password protection, along with a caveat that some of the features are not fully functional yet because the site is still in beta testing. Even so, it is great to have another resource for protecting videos, and I can't wait to see how this site grows and develops.
  • Kodaly Level I vs. Orff Level I
    by Jen at Noteworthy by Jen
    It's so refreshing to read a post by someone who is not completely gung-ho for any one single teaching methodology. Jen compares and contrasts her experience after taking both Orff and Kodaly level I courses, and highlights the benefits of each. Personally, I have not taken any levels yet but have attended countless workshops for both methodologies, and I really enjoyed reading about them from someone who has had a more in-depth experience with each.
  • Practice Kits
    by Jennifer at FPSResources
    Wow, looking at these practice kits makes me really want to be a student in Jennifer's piano studio! I can just imagine how much of an incentive these games will be to get students to practice at home. And it's such a great idea to put the whole kit right in a student's binder. That way it never ends up being out of sight, out of mind. This whole blog post is making me feel like I should go practice piano...
  • MKMEA Chalk Challenge
    by Lindsay Jervis at Pursuit of Joyfulness: A Kodály Inspired Classroom
    Reading this post makes me really wish I lived anywhere near Wichita! Lindsay had a brilliant idea to piggyback off the popularity of the ice bucket challenge from last summer, but with something totally fun and playful: sidewalk chalk! I love using sidewalk chalk for outdoor music lessons. So if you're planning to attend the MKMEA convention, I hope you play along with the challenge!

Thanks for reading! I hope some of these posts have helped you feel inspired for the new school year. I know that I have a dozen new ideas to try out when my school starts up again in a few weeks.

For more information about the Music Education Blog Carnival or to sign up as a host, please visit Justine Dolorfino's website.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Wish and Dish - Back to School

By now, I'm sure you've heard about the site-wide back to school sale going on over at Teachers Pay Teachers. To celebrate, I'm linking up with some other music sellers to promote some quality products available during the sale:

#1: My Own Product

I had a very proud moment the other day when my husband came home and saw my fully assembled Getting-To-Know-You cube sitting on the piano and he asked me where I bought it. 

Well I didn't buy it... I MADE it! And putting it together was super easy. You can see a demonstration in this short video:

If you're looking for a fun game to play on the first day of school, this cube will definitely be a hit. My students have loved answering these questions in the past and I can't wait to show them the new cube format!

#2: A Product by Another Music Seller

This ukulele bundle looks PERFECT for teaching my upper elementary students. Once again, Shelley from Pitch Publications has been incredibly thorough in thinking of all the little details to really help students understand the concept. 

In the individual song sheets, I love that the words are highlighted where each chord changes. That was often a point of confusion with my students when I did ukulele. 

Because I teach on a cart now, I haven't been teaching a uke unit, but this product is inspiring me to find a way to make the logistics work and bring them back out, for the sake of my students!

#3: A Non-Music Item on my Wishlist

I am just drooling over these ethereal outer space papers. They are so dreamy! I am trying to incorporate more real-life images and photography into my lessons. Now I just have to come up with a good way to use them within a musical context!

I hope you have fun shopping during the big sale! And don't forget- if you buy a product from my store, you are eligible to enter my exclusive customer giveaway, going on from now until August 15th!