App review: Teacher Pal

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 (The activity I start class with is 90% student lead most times), and be able to input quick behavior notes and grades without having to make time to visit my desktop which wastes class time and sometimes when time is not available leaves me trying to remember grades at the end. After several tries I think I finally found an app; TeacherPal

Now this app is free from iTunes so there is no money lost if it does not work out. When you first launch it your virtual desk with long empty hallway for your classes will appear:

You need to add your classes by hitting the + button on the top left. I teach elementary general music so there are many classroom now in my hallway which took some time, but an hour now will save me 4 later. I labeled each class with the teacher name and what grade level they were for the upcoming year:

I love the hallway portion. It allows me to have my classes all in front of me and the hallway acts just like a normal school hallway, the lights turn on and off, the bugs crawl over the plants, and the doors open right up, it’s kind of cool.

Once the classroom is set up you can enter it to begin entering in your student information by clicking the + button on the upper right corner. The great part about this is you can enter not only student names but parent contact info and pictures to help you learn names when September arrives. The student pictures can be uploaded to your IPad or you can take their pictures using the Ipad camera.

 After all of your student information has been put in you can start playing around. When inside a full classroom you can drag the virtual desks around to create new seating plans (if you are unhappy with your current seating chart just hit the reorganize button to start fresh!):

Taking attendance is as simple as clicking the attendance tab at the top and touching the desk once with your finger if they are there and twice if absent which is recorded right away. If you have a rowdy student one day, go to the behavior tab and click their desk to write a note which is recorded into their information. When recording assignments in the grade book tab it looks a lot like this: 

          Just like a normal grade you can add in graded assignments.  

  Other features of TeacherPal include Dropbox integration and ability to send out mass emails to students and parents by class.

I turned a few other teachers on to this app over the summer and we hope to test it out together come September. So far I like how it works and it will be interesting to take it into the classroom!

Little taste of my faily vaca in Seattle from Mom’s blog 🙂

Travelingdwinals's Blog

We have spent Tuesday and Wednesday out and about in Seattle.  We went to the Seattle Aquarium where Charlie was picking out his salmon

Catie liked to pet the sea creatures in the tide pools

and Cari took about 300 pictures of the sea otters

We then shopped and found ‘cupcake royale’ and had to try a few of the floavors including raspberry lemonade and blueberry brown betty.  YUM!

Today we were typical tourists and Rode The DUCKS!!!  Although a bit annoying with the duck calls the history of the region and being able to see different parts of Seattle including life on a house boat was great.  We saw where parts of “Sleepless in Seattle” were filmed.  We then took the Washington State Ferry to Bainbridge Island for a late lunch and a little more window shopping.  The views from the ferry were beautiful.

It was very interesting to see a submarine…

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A Reflection

It seems reflecting has been popular this summer, reading what everyone else has been reflecting made me think about my own career. The successes I’ve collected since graduating with my undergraduate degree have come so plentiful that it seems so hard for even myself to believe I am now where I am at. 10 years ago no one would have imagined me here. I was a shy band geek who was finding myself either in the band room or on the field hockey field with big dreams to be a top egyptologist working in the Cairo Museum working alongside Dr. Zahi Hawass (Yes ladies and gentlemen you may add another notch to my “nerd” belt). Things seemed to change after a while and a new route was formed into the real world that was such a big change.

Now I find myself getting ready to head into my 3rd year of teaching shoulder deep in it all.  It has been all about learning how to create the perfect classroom enviroment and form the best program I can for my students. I’ve struggled to get there but in the process I learned a lot, found so much support, figured out who I really am as a teacher (remember? the crazy one in the kilt whose not afraid to do the Hokey Pokey and turn myself about?) and really found my niche in the music education world, technology.

I’d never thought in a million years I would be finding myself with the doors that have been opened, the friends I’ve made or the roads I started traveling down. I’ve learned hard work, passion and a lot of heart can get you a long way,  to show compassion towards your students but don’t take it personal if they are rude it might just be a bad day, and always have confidence in what you do. Also, never be afraid to ask for help, you don’t know everything.

    It’s only been a few years since I’ve started this whole journey. Without the support I’ve received, the connections I’ve made, and the inspiration and drive so many others have instilled in me I wouldn’t be where I am. I’ve made a strong start, it’s only going to get stronger from here.

5 DVDs to Have in Your Library

      To be a good educator not only do you need to be on top of your game, creative, outgoing, ready to be there for your students. You also have to realize there are going to be days when down time is going to be a necessity not only for your students but probably for you as well. This time might come when you are out and a substitute might need to take over, or maybe it is right before a vacation where no one is able to keep on task. Maybe you are like me you’re voice is gone, you have a slight case of the chills and a lot of work to do but just don’t have the courage to call in sick. These are some of the best excuses to pop in a DVD and have a relaxing class just watching a video. Of course, it’s unnecessary to have a large collection of DVDs especially as a music teacher. My collection is kept in a small milk crate and that is more than plenty of room. Below are the 5 DVDs or DVD sets that my students love and cannot get enough of. 

Quaver Music- This is an amazing program which not only includes a DVD series with 10-20 minute lesson enhancement videos that teach students certain musical concepts, but also includes teacher guides with activity suggestions, worksheets, and access to a free student website. These DVDs are fantastic and my students cannot get enough of them, they retain concepts and enjoy learning. The great part about these is that even if you are out, the teacher guides are so easy to follow you can leave a lesson for a substitute and even if they are not musically inclined they go over successfully.

Stomp (Out Loud and Live)- Best DVDs ever. Both are of performances by the crew of STOMP. Perfect to show when you are out or when your students have completed a killer unit about recycled percussion, rhythm, or body percussion. The hard and fast sounds and jaw dropping rhythms keep the attention of not only the kids but you as well!

Little Amadeus Series-  I have the whole 1st season on DVD and my K-2 students are slightly obsessed. The whole premise behind the show is following the child version of Amadeus Mozart through his life and adventures. It talks about music during the time he lived, plays certain pieces, and shows the lifestyle of the people back then. It is great to teach students about classical music and the history of a lot of the famous works we still here today. Be careful though, this series has a few words and one or two scenes that you might not be able to show to students. Preview an episode before you show it!

Jazz Cat- A Reading Rainbow episode featuring the book “Jazz Cat”. I tend to teach my younger students a little about Jazz towards the end of the year and this is a video I will show every once in a while. They get the jazz vibe and Lamar does a great job teaching them about the jazz ensembles and improv.

Zin Zin Violin- Another Reading Rainbow episode but this one features the book “Zin Zin Violin” . I teach instruments of the orchestra to my 1st graders and instrument families of the orchestra to my 3rd graders. I usually show this video to them after each unit is complete as a cumulative review. We discuss the instruments they see, they then get to watch how an orchestra works.

Did You Hear That?- A Ghosty Listening Activity

 Things that go bump in the night, those that talk to you who you cannot see, eyes that watch you when they are not even there. Some don’t realize but I am totally in love with anything paranormal. This love leaks over into my teaching finding songs that are just spooky enough to grab my students interest. One activity that is over the top spooky and attention grabbing is a listening activity lesson I do with The Danse Macabre by Camille Saint Saens (The same composer who wrote my other favorite song to use in class “The Carnival of the Animals!“). 

For those of you reading that do not know, The Danse Macabre is divided up into four distinct sections:

The Violin Section- A haunting melody which a lot of my students describe as a troll playing a fiddle. Watch for the sound of the actual violin when listening for this section.





The Footsteps Section- Represents the section that sounds like a grand ballroom dance scene.





Flying Ghost Section- My students like to call it the Casper section. Close your eyes and listen..does it sound like a ghost flying through the clear night sky?





The Skeleton Section- Sounding like a poor little skeleton turned into a xylophone and being played by the ghouls that hide in the attic. This section is the most distinct out of the four.





When your students first walk into the classroom have the song playing. Here is the YouTube link to the audio I use for this: . Have the four pictures on the board and point to each section as the song plays. Now this is a long song so I only play a small part of it just enough so students get the point. After they hear it divide the class into four sections and assign them each a section of the song. Ask them to come up with a movement to do together during that section as it plays. I give them about three minutes to brainstorm before starting the song. They listen, I point to the sections, and when their group’s section plays they must do their movement. I play the whole song through while this happens. The students usually are too busy laughing with each groups movements and doing their own to become disengaged with the activity.

Here’s the main activity, give each of your students a piece of blank paper and a writing utensil (A tech alternative would be using the paint program on a computer or other device and having them draw on the program instead of a piece of paper). Ask them to divide the paper into four sections by folding it and then draw the four pictures above in each section. While they are doing this you need to draw your paper on the whiteboard. I have laminated pictures and just use magnets so I do not have to draw the pictures. When the class is ready, start the song. When each section is played, have them make a tally in that section of their paper.  I will help them out with my board for the first couple of sections, then I stop and let them finish on their own. After we discuss our findings and then I collect the papers as they exit class to see how they did. The tally marks are NOT going to be exact numbers, just look to make sure they were understanding the activity and actively listening!

A map example