Monday, August 26, 2013

Classroom Tour 2013

I've found nothing on the Internet that is more helpful than music teachers posting how they set up and organize their classrooms at the beginning of each year.  I know we all have different styles and different materials to work with, but I hope by posting my set up it will give someone else some ideas :)

I tried something new this year - I have always had these flip form risers but I kept them hidden away in they gym.  I tried them my very first year teaching and I HATED them!  I only have 4 sets and to get all of my students to fit they have really had to sit close together (my largest class has always been 24+).  I have had the students sitting on the floor in nice straight rows for the past 6 years with no problems, but with the addition of new technology came the need for a new seating arrangement.  I (finally) will have a document camera and data projector in my room this year.  Not the interactive whiteboard that I wanted, but hey, anything is better than that ancient overhead that I've been forced to use up until now!  I needed to get the kids up off the floor so they could see over the table that I am putting the projector on - hence the risers in my room.  Today was the first day of school for us and I tried it all out.  I told my kids today that it was an experiment and if we decide it's not going to work we will have to figure something else out.  I still am not sure that they are going to work, but we'll see...

This is the supply shelf where I keep all of the things that you might possibly need to complete small assignments in the music room.  I have colored pencils, erasers, glue sticks, scissors, dry erase boards/markers/erasers, wipes, vis-à-vis pens and crayons.  I also have full and half sheet notebook paper.  On the left side I have a few classroom mailboxes to keep work for the 3rd, 4th and 5th grade classes.  I will probably keep center work on the 2 shelves below.

I decided over the summer that I wanted to do something a little different with my workspace.  I spend a lot of time here planning out lessons and getting myself organized for the day, so I wanted it to be comfortable, super organized, and a little homey (is that even a word?).  I purchased the chair from Wal-Mart.  It's purple so it gives the room a little of my personality.  I also purchased the small bookshelf from Lowe's Home Improvement to put my binders in.  I tried just standing them up against my computer last year and they all kept falling over.  This seems to be working out much better so far.  The white drawers underneath my desk have the extra worksheets and materials for a substitute in case something comes up and I can't be at work.  Emergency sub plans are in one of the binders.
A closer view of the desk shows the "teacher toolbox" that I made (pinterest inspired).  You can't really see the labels all that well, but they are things like paperclips, 3M strips, post it notes, etc.  And of course it would not be at all complete without the bottle of Mountain Dew :)
I also (with the help of my father and my sister) made these crate seats - also inspired by pinterest.  I might use these for extra seating in case we decide that we can't fit 24 5th graders on the risers.  I originally planned to use them when I give out independent/group work. 
The bookshelves on the left are the home of my music classroom library.  I have a pretty decent collection of picture books that have a music theme (or regular picture books that can be adapted for a music lesson).  If we ever have extra time (which is VERY rare) or on free choice day, the students can choose to read a book from the classroom library.  I also will have my recorder resource bulletin board here, but I have not had time to put that one up.

Here is a view from the very front of the room, so you can see how it's all laid out.  The classroom library is in the back, my desk is back on the right side behind the supply shelf, and the risers are in the middle of the room.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Teacher Emergency Kit

I have spent a lot of time searching pinterest for new ideas for my classroom.  I will probably never have time to make them all, but I did find one that I just had to have. 

Teacher Emergency Kit

I found the idea here:  As soon as I read this, I knew it was something I had to do.  Using her post to give me ideas, I sat down and made my own list of things that I would possibly need to have on hand just in case.  Here is what I have come up with so far (and I'm sure this list will change several times before the year is over)...

  • Ibuprofen for when I feel a headache coming on
  • Vitamin C drops for those days I feel a cold coming on
  • Cough drops for when I forgot about the Vitamin C and actually got a cold
  • Band aids - especially if you are clumsy like me
  • Feminine needs for - well you know
  • Chapstick -especially in the wintertime
  • Nail file - there's not much worse than a broken nail
  • Hand Lotion - also got mine from Mary Kay
  • Wisp brushes - not quite like a toothbrush but will work in a pinch...really works well to freshen breath
  • Tide pen - in case I spill my lunch
  • Foundation - figured I would just open a new one before my old ran out and put the extra that I had left in there
  • Hair ties - because I'm always needing one
  • Hair brush - with long hair I have to brush it often or it looks terrible by the end of the day
  • Lint roller
  • Hand sanitizer - best is from Bath and Body Works
  • Breath mints
  • Kleenex
  • Baby wipes
  • Maybe popcorn or a couple of granola bars
  • And of course...lots of chocolate :)
After I made my list I looked over it and noticed it was a really long list, but I'd rather have too much than not enough, so I went to town and bought my supplies (not all pictured).  I found the case in the cosmetics department at Wal-Mart.

I packed them all neatly inside the case...
And here's the finished product.  I think it will fit nicely inside my desk drawer at school.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

New Improved Music Teacher Binder

I don't know how it is anywhere else, but here it has been raining since school got out.  Not much pool time for me - but I have been quite productive about getting things ready for the upcoming school year.  Where did I start?  I'm glad you asked!

I started with  my teacher binder.  I experimented with using a teacher binder last school year, but I didn't know how practical it would be for a music teacher.  All of the blogs I have read were really positive about having a place to keep everything together - but when I look at my own situation things are quite different.  I don't have one group of kids to track throughout the having a binder to keep student info and grades and parent contact records was just not practical for me.  I did, however, like the idea of keeping most of my important information all in one place.  So I tried it out.  It worked well for my needs, but there were still a few things missing.  So this year, I have created a new improved version -
Mrs. Hagood's Super Awesome Teacher Binder v.2 (2013-2014)

I started by making a list of things that I needed to keep track of that I could fit into one single binder.  I kept most of my stuff from last year and added a few things.  Here's what I came up with:

1 - Important information.  I will use this section to keep information the administration hands out throughout the year for quick reference...things like the master schedule, accounting procedures, the phone list, etc.

2 - Professional File - It is always a good idea to keep a record of all your professional activity.  I started this my 1st year of teaching.  It is, of course, a requirement in my district to keep a professional file for your first 4 years.  Mine even got "audited" one year, so to speak.  Now that I am past my "beginning teacher" phase, I still think it is a good idea to keep track of a few things.  In this section, I will keep my teaching evaluations, a record of my professional development for the year, and anything else that comes to me from the district level.
3 - Calendars.  The school I work at always gives us a calendar, but it is small (and I was bored), so I made my own.  I also included a copy of the district calendar and a countdown calendar...because I start counting down on day 1 :)

4 - Standards.  This is were I keep a copy of all our standards for each grade level. 

5 - Lesson Plans.  The idea (for now) is to keep my weekly lesson plans for each grade in this section and keep the binder in the front of the room with me while I'm teaching.  At the end of the week I will replace the lessons with the new week and file the others away.  I have also thought about keeping a rough draft of a unit plan calendar or a yearly calendar for each grade so I know when to start preparing for programs, when to start teaching symphony, etc.  I'm not sure yet about this.
 6 - Meeting notes.  My meeting notes section was so chaotic last year that I have decided to split this section up into 3 different sub-sections this year.  I have a tab for school based staff meetings, one for site-based leadership team, and one for district-wide music teacher meetings.  Hopefully this will help me find what I need to remember more quickly.

7 - Miscellaneous.  I added this section for all of the things that don't have a home.  Most likely it will house things like future lesson plan ideas and lists of things that need to be done.

Hopefully this binder will be able to meet all of my needs this year.  Next on my list - A Substitute Information Binder and Student Data Binders.  I guess I better get to work!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Classroom Management Reflections and Class Dojo

This has been a very difficult week for me classroom management-wise...I have had to take more time than usual to manage behavior in some of my classes (especially my 4th and 5th grade classes).  I have talked to several teachers this week, and it seems to be schoolwide (which makes me feel a little better, but not much).  I don't know if it is the crazy weather we are having, the moon (I never believed that myth until I started teaching), or if it had anything to do with free choice week last week. 

I am leaning towards the latter.  I have noticed that it is very difficult to get back into our routine after having free choice week.  It's almost like I have to start completely over setting expectations and procedures.  I don't understand how you could completely forget a routine after having only broken it once, but this week it was almost like nobody remembered what they were supposed to do when they came into the room.  I love giving my students a reward week, especially since they work so hard to earn it, but the week after it's almost like I have to work twice as hard...

I introduced my 5th grade students to opera this week.  You would think that students would get excited about a field trip even if they didn't like it just because they get to get out of school for a day.  But when I told them about the opera trip we will be taking later this month, I was shocked at the number of students that said "do we have to go?"  That almost hurts my feelings.  Especially since this trip is completely paid for.  All they have to do is show up.  I haven't quite figured out how to get my students excited about things like this.  I don't particularly care for opera, but I'm excited because this is a field trip I actually get to go on!

I did start something new this week that I have been wanting to start since I learned about it at our state music conference in November.  It is called Class Dojo, and it is a wonderful classroom management website.  You can find it here at

Friday, February 1, 2013

Free Choice Reward Week

This has been quite an interesting week!  In one of my earlier blogs, I explained how I use a reward system called "free choice day."  Every week, each class has an opportunity to earn a peace dove for music.  At the end of each quarter, I designate a week for free choice day.  Each class has to earn a certain number of doves to participate (this quarter it was 8 doves).  Each class that earned 8 doves got to participate in free choice, but the classes that did not had regular music class.  I only had 1 class out of 21 that did not earn enough doves! 

Kindergarten - since these students are not quite old enough to understand how my games work, we have movie day instead of free choice.  This quarter we watched "Curious George Leads the Band."  I explained to them that watching movies was a really special thing and that we don't get to do it a lot.  I have 3 expectations -
1)  It is not time to talk, so I should not hear voices.
2)  It is not time to sleep, so I should not see anyone laying down.
3)  It is not time to sit with our friends, so you need to stay in your seat.
I asked each of the classes why it was not a good idea to sit with our friends, and they all said because if they did they would probably talk :)

1st and 2nd Grade - I have 3 choices for these groups.  I always have to explain to the students that it is free choice, not free play, and that it is free choice, not extra recess.  I give the students 3 choices, and they get to choose which one they would like to do-
1)  Music Library - I have 12 baskets full of picture books with a music theme.  I tell them that if they are reading a book, they can enjoy a pillow, but if they do not have a book in their hands, then they may not use the pillows.  I also emphasize that if they are playing or fighting with the pillows, then I will take the pillows away.
2)  Music coloring sheet - I have taken several color by number sheets, scanned them into my computer, erased the numbers and replaced them with music symbols.  I have to explain that they may only work on 1, and that they may only take back with them what they were working on.  In the past, I have had students grab a handful of sheets and take them back to class to work on later or when they get home.
3)  Music Games - A few years ago I bought a set of music dice and printed off some game boards.  I also have 2 copies of Heigh-Ho Cherry-O and I have replaced the spinner with music symbols.  I also have a collection of jigsaw puzzles that the students can work on. 

3rd-5th grade - These students have the same choices as the 1st and 2nd grade students, but since they are older I have a few other things that they can choose from as well -
1)  I have a selection of music word searches that they can work on.  Same rules as the coloring sheets (you can only work on 1).
2)  I have some board games that I have modified to make music games.  I have Sorry, Chutes and Ladders, Candy Land and Don't Break the Ice. 

Things I have noticed about free choice day over the years:
1)  Some classes are very responsible and make great choices, but some classes do not.  Sometimes, it is harder to manage free choice day than it is to manage a regular music class.  And sometimes, I go home exhausted!
2)  Games to not last long in an elementary school.  I already have games that are missing pieces, and some that are falling apart. 
3)  More children would rather color than you would think!  I am continuously surprised at the number of children, especially 4th and 5th graders that would rather work on a coloring sheet than play a game.
4)  No one ever wants to read, and that makes me very sad :(

Friday, January 11, 2013

Failed Lessons

I was sitting in a meeting yesterday listening to a reading consultant tell us how to teach guided reading and she said something profound.  She said "never think of a failed lesson as a disaster.  Failed lessons are opportunities."  I probably didn't hear anything she said after that point because I was thinking so much about what she said.  It is so true.

Failed lessons are opportunities to reflect - what could I have done better?  Where did my lesson fall apart?  Why did my lesson fall apart?  How can I teach this lesson better next time?  The great thing about being a music teacher is that we get multiple opportunities to teach the same lesson and make it better.  I was teaching a class last week and we got through my whole lesson with about 15 minutes left of class.  I tried to improvise, but as we all know improvising doesn't always work.  So after school that day I thought about that class.  I found out that I had skipped an entire part of my lesson and didn't even realize it.  I also decided that a part of it didn't go so well because I didn't explain it well enough.  So the next day I changed my lesson with the next class...and it was so much better!

Failed lessons are opportunities to regroup - Just like I said about reflecting, I used this lesson to regroup my thoughts and rethink how I was attacking the lesson plan.  The next day I changed the way I taught the activity and I didn't have as many issues.

Failed lessons are opportunities to reteach - I had that same class again yesterday, and I was honest with them.  I told them that I didn't teach the activity very well last week and that we were going to try again.  Not only did the classroom management work better, but the students were able to do the activity and it was great! 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Classroom Management

Since rewards and competitions are not looked upon favorably in my school, I have had a difficult time coming up with a good classroom management plan for my music classes.  After 5 years (and of course with me getting to know the children better and being consistent throught the years), I think I have finally come up with something that works.

I have 5 expectations (all of which can be summed up in the 5th and final expectation "always try your best").  I review the expectations every class for the first 9 or 10 weeks.  I know that sounds a little extreme, but I have learned that children need a lot of repetition to really know and understand something.  By doing this at the beginning of the year as much as I do, then towards the end of the year I don't have as many problems because the children know exactly what I expect.  These are always posted in my room as well, right above the CD player.  When I introduce them, I don't call them rules.  I say "this is what good musicians do."  I have 2 reward systems working together in my classes for students following the Good Musician Expectations.

For individual students, I have a "Good Musician Award."  I choose 1 student from each class each week to be the Good Musician.  I tell the classes every week what I am looking for, and I am very specific.  I say that I will not choose a student that is talking, not listening, playing or being silly, not making good choices, etc.  I am looking for someone that is making good choices every single time.  This doesn't really make it a competition, because all of the students are trying to be the best that they can be.  I do the individual reward because I think it is important to recognize individuals for their hard work and good choices.  I also think it is important to teach students how to lose with a good attitude because in life we don't always win every single time.  So even though I don't call it "winning" the award, I stress the importance of being a good sport and congratulating the student that was named the Good Musician, and I tell them that even though they didn't get it today, that it does not mean they weren't doing a good job (unless, of course, they were not making good choices).  After a few weeks, they get it.  And of course, I always try to get around to everyone by the end of the year :)

The second reward I have in my class is called "free choice music day."  This is not a free day where the students get to do anything they want, but a day where I give them 3 choices of more fun activities and games that they can do instead of having a normal music class.  I do this 3 times a year and my students really look forward to it.  In order to participate in free choice day, the class has to have earned a certain number of awards.  I give 1 award to the whole class every week that they are following directions and working hard.

If they have not earned a certain number, then the class does not get to participate during free choice week and we have regular music class instead.  I review the expectations with the class at the beginning of music every week, and let them know that I will not give the class the award if they are talking, being silly, not listening, not following directions, etc.  If I have to stop teaching to address an issue with the whole class, I put a talley mark on the board (which can be earned back).  If the class has any talleys at the end, they do not get the award.

My consequences for not making good choices are very simple.  For every offense, the student gets a strike.  The 1st strike is a warning.  I write down the student's name on a post-it note and stick it to the outside of the class folder.  If that student starts making good choices again then I will mark it off.  But if the student does not start making good choices, the strikes are:
2 - I speak to the classroom teachers about the behavior.
3 - I speak to the parents about the behavior.
4 - We speak to the principal about the behavior.
I tell the students that we only have music for 40 minutes, and there is no reason that anyone should ever get 4 strikes in 1 music class.

Classroom management is a process and of course I don't have it perfected (and I probably never will), but I think the most important thing I have learned so far are:
  • Students have to be taught what they are expected to do and how they are expected to behave before you can expect them to do it. 
  • If you tell them that something is going to happen if they don't follow the expectations, then you better be prepared to do it because they will test you.
  • Be consistent...don't adhere to your consequences just sometimes and ignore the behavior other times (or with certain students).