Outdoor Musical Lawn Rockets

  I’m starting to hear the undeniable stressed out moans from teachers trying to survive the end of their year.  So much to do, so little time right? I remember staring out the window with the kiddos wanting to be outside just as much as they did. So what happened? I took them outside! We played music games! We had fun! Sure it was a little chaotic, but that’s the price to pay for some fun outdoor learning!

Here’s one of the games we played:

What you’ll need-

1.) Two of those foam air powered rocket launchers found in any toy store


2.) Yarn or ribbon for markers

3.) Paper with different notes and rests written on them. (Attach them to clipboards to weight them down)

4.) Hand Held whiteboards with markers.


  • Mark out different lines outside on the grass with the yarn or ribbon to look like a target.
  • Place the paper with the different notes and rests at each marker, one per marker, sort of like I drew out below (sorry for the horrible computer drawing):


  • Draw 2 measures on the whiteboards and mark them in 4/4 time.


    The point of this game is to have students launch the rocket launchers to the target to build two measures on their board in 4/4 time. Where ever the rocket lands closest to they have to use that next in their composition. If they land on a note or rest that does not fit, then they continue until they find a note that does. First team to fill two measure in 4/4 wins!

  • Divide the class in half and have them line up behind the start line.
  • When you say go, the first player for each team grabs the rocket launcher and launches it towards the targets.
  • They have to go retrieve their dart and determine which note or rest they landed on and race back to their team’s whiteboard to fill it in.
  • When the first player is done, the next player goes and so on.
  • If a player lands on a note or rest that does not fit in their board they cannot use it and the next player must go.
  • First team to fill in their measures wins! *If you want to add a level of difficulty, have them clap the rhythm or sing the solfege in order to pass!*

What sorts of activities do you do outside at the end of the year?

Outdoor Music Class Kit

 The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and the grass is green. Who can’t help but to run out side and dance around in the fresh air? As the school year end looms closer I always remembered taking my classes outside to do activities. Not only did they want to be out there, but I did too. Staying inside the classroom with the sun shining was never my idea of fun. 

So what is up for this week? I decided to do a follow up to my popular post: The Essential Centers Kit and start building a bucket you could grab at a moments notice to have class outside!


Dog not included in the kit! (I got puppy photobombed)

11210293_10100331733595457_525321402_n A ball is always a great choice for a kit. From passing around during a circle game to playing a quick review question activity.

11258616_10100331733670307_763634784_nBecause, who doesn’t need a musical book for outdoor story time?

11256407_10100331733665317_1699743257_nThese stones are perfect for some pavement target practice or even a way to keep track of who has not had a turn yet in a game.

11210288_10100331733660327_1159355553_nSidewalk musical compositions anyone? Chalk rocks!

11259031_10100331733650347_1866173371_n   Cut some pieces to set game boundaries or start/finish lines.

11245299_10100331733645357_1291690507_n  You always need a bucket to keep everything in! But hey, why not use it in the sand box? Or maybe as target practice? Throw the ball in, if you miss you get to answer a review question. If you get it in you get to pick a song for the whole group to sing!

11121591_10100331733635377_721623593_n  The PE teacher I use to work with used cut up pool noodles as a way for students to tag each other without smacking into each other. These are perfect for some instrument  or music trivia freeze tag!

11251707_10100331733630387_1239796880_n Ukelele travel sized and fantastic instrument to take outside with you to practice songs they have been learning throughout the year in the nice green grass and sunshine.

11253803_10100331733625397_810043865_n Bandanas are so versatile, there are many ways to use them outdoors! I always keep one handy.

11253798_10100331733600447_1905909129_n    I used the twine to create markers representing different notes and rests,students had to aim in order to build measures with designated meter. Say if they were building a measure in 4/4, they would need to get notes that would only fit the measures.

11251579_10100331733620407_1714595342_nSometimes, sun glasses were not enough to keep the sun out of my eyes. Also, if there was a larger group out I had on a brightly colored cap so my students could find me when it was time to go inside!


What would you add to this kit?

Up To No Good

Have you ever thought about breaking the rules? For years music has fallen into a routine, it is almost like one knows what to expect when walking into a music classroom. We walk out of college with a set way to start teaching. Passed down from our professors who had spent many years in the classroom. It is sort of considered the basics in a way. A solid foundation to jump right into a job with, a timeless way to teach music…but, isn’t it time those basics get an update? Have we followed that timeless way so long that we have become too predictable? What happens when we break away from that foundation and create our own path? 

Imagine being an outsider walking into your music class for the first time? What would you see? What would you think you would expect to see?

Times are changing and what someone would normally imagine seeing walking into a music classroom isn’t what you would find anymore. Music Teachers are up to no good, breaking barriers, finding new ways to teach an enduring subject, and changing their learning environments into innovative masterpieces. Through new techniques, visuals, technology, and mindsets. Music Class is becoming a place for creative change.

But, what happens when we are not given the chance due to that pre notion of what our class should look like? I remember being told “your classroom should be a quiet place where children sit and play only orff instruments and sing traditional songs. They should read off paper scores and you should be at the piano the whole time..” why? why should I do that? I promised myself from that day on that I would swear to be up to no good, smashing down the walls that was once a traditional music class pushing the learning forward. We of course still sang, and danced, and played instruments but who said we couldn’t beatbox our ABC’s, do centers, and write musical compositions on iPads? Even if I had to break a few rules and get into trouble, it made changing the perception of a new music class even more fun.

So I ask you, are you ready to take the pledge?

To always swear to be up to no good.

To push away expectations of what people think you should?

Do you swear to always have fun?

While creating the ULTIMATE learning experience that will be sure to stun?

Would you promise to always be bold?

While creating an experience never before told?

Are you ready to break a few rules?

Creating innovators that are in your school?

     So I give you this new blog series, I’m collecting guest posters along the way. We’ll talk about what defines “traditional” and what are ways mus-educators have been creating new age learning in the music room. Stay tuned for out of this world activities sure to engage, stories that will motivate and inspire, and advice sure to pin you as the mischievous and brilliant educator in your school.

So I ask you..


Do you solemnly swear you are up to no good?

Jingle Bells for PreK

As the holiday season is upon us. I miss having to practice holiday carols day in and out truly getting into the Christmas spirit. Being able to still teach PreK has given me an opportunity to still keep a little of that in my grasp. Word recognition is big for the little guys I see. Being able to recognize words, emotions, sounds, all of that. So what I have written is a short story where they have to recognize the words jingle and bells and be able to play them when the story cues them to.  I’ve made jingle bracelets like this:


 For them to participate with. I just took some sewing elastic and cut it into strips, strung a bell on it, twisted some ribbon with it to make it look pretty, and tied it together (Thank you Julia for the idea!). The kids can now just slide it over their wrists and voila! Jingle bell bracelet. You can do a lot of little things with stories like this. 

So here’s the story:

Lily was trying to sleep in her bed, she was excited for Santa to come tomorrow night!

Lily heard a noise coming from outside her window. It sounded like bells!

She went to her window and opened it, hanging on her window sill were jingle bells!

She picked up the bells and shook them. Can you shake yours?

Lily went to sleep with her jingle bells.

When she woke up she went downstairs and saw her Dad shaking milk for his cereal. Lily shook her hand like Dad, did her jingle bells make sound?

Her Mom had music playing, when Lily danced. Her bells jingled!

That night, her Mom and Dad took Lily to a Christmas concert. The band started to play Jingle Bells, so Lily played along with her bells!

That night, as Lily was just about to fall asleep. She heard a jingling downstairs.

Running down the stairs she peeked around the corner and who did she see next to the tree? SANTA!

She waved letting her jingle bells sound. “Ho Ho Ho!” Santa smiled and said. Lilly laughed.

Santa put his finger to his lips letting her know it was time to sneak back to bed.

Lily put her bells on a chair giving Santa one last wave and tiptoed back upstairs to bed.

She went to sleep excited for tomorrow.

   Ask questions, have them do different movements, even beat activities. I’m going to tell this story like a real story teller so the kids have to imagine their own picture and pay more attention to me. I love story telling, I could captivate a whole room of kids with one of my stories. It’s all about performance.

What kinds of fun activities do you do with your little guys this time of year?

Skype into the New School Year

    It feels so very weird not getting ready for the new school year. Usually by this time my room is unpacked, lessons are planned, and my new equipment is unpacked and ready to go. In a way I do miss it, but I’ve been so busy and so very excited with the new job my mind has been very focused lately.


I do still miss unwrapping my new equipment at the beginning of the year. So shiny and new and ready to be used in the classroom. One thing I remembered was how awesome it was to get new tech equipment. Last year I got a brand new Snowball Microphone and webcam, you know what I did with it? I Skyped.

Now some might be hesitant to Skype, the work of finding someone to Skype with, setting up a time, getting the equipment, testing it out. It all takes a lot of work, but I raise my right hand to you and solemnly swear that it gets easier and even more fun the more you do it. (I also solemnly swear that I am up to no good but that’s a whole different story.)  With Skype you have so many options to connect your students with the outside world. Skype gives you and your students a key to unlock the door that leads outside your classroom walls and allows you to explore the world together and meet new friends along the way.

With websites like https://education.skype.com and social media sites like Twitter you can easily find colleagues across the globe to connect with. 

Just last year alone I Skyped with 10 different classrooms with my students. Each an enriching learning experience that left the classes walking out and talking about it well into the following few months. It leaves a lasting impression on them. There are so many things you can do over Skype in the classroom. There’s a few that stick out to me for a music classroom:

Performances- I had my 1st and 2nd graders working on grade level shows, we Skyped in with several classes and sang them a few songs to help us practice being in front of an audience. You can do the same with your classes, have the students sing for any class that is willing to listen. It will not only get them comfortable with performing, but is also a great activity for performance etiquette.

Project Presentations- Have a project the students are presenting? Make it fun and invite an expert or maybe a well known school figure into your class via Skype. They can make comments, provide encouragement, and just be someone new to see the students work and break the everyday cycle of students presenting to you and their classmates.

Guest Speakers- Talking about a certain subject in class is a perfect time to invite in an expert via Skype. From composers to audio engineers to other teachers. You can bring in just about anybody into your classroom for little to no money to talk to your students!

Guest Ensembles- Ever think about how you wish you could bring in a Symphony Orchestra or a Jazz Ensemble to your students? Skype is an easy and effective way to bring a full performance into your room. The students can hear live music, be able to ask the performers questions, and see instruments up close and personal.

Song Shares- The simplest and most done form of Skyping for the music classroom. Each class shares a song with one another, students can compliment each other and then ask questions to each class. This is a great one for a Skyping first timer.


What would you use Skype for in your Classroom?



Be sure to share your Skyping experiences!

That’s No Longer an Excuse: Turning Everyday Objects into Classroom Technology

   Its been a strange week for me, having attended the first 3 days of my teacher professional development and then taking the last 2 to start getting myself into my new routine my brain has been all over the place. I am trying to figure out a good routine for working from home, just the fact that my day is not scheduled down to the second is so very weird. I know teachers out there can relate, we go full throttle for so many months most days unable to even know the correct time on the clock until its time to go home and now that I can sit outside on the patio and work on certain projects at my own pace for hours occasionally getting up for food, maybe a walk, whatever I need is SUCH a different and very awesome feeling. I still love days going full throttle, but being able to sit and really concentrate on something is freeing!

What has always helped make my full throttle days easier? technology. Without my project and my computer I would have had a lot of trouble getting through. They allowed me to minimize my trips to the copier or the hours creating poster visuals and just have everything in one glorious paper free place. During lessons I could add that level of engagement with interactive websites and curriculum materials from places like Quaver Music and Music First which had kids memorized.

I couldn’t have lived without my technology in the room and its becoming a staple in every classroom, that is why I’m so surprised when someone tells me they DO NOT have some sort of technology in their teaching space. I ask why and I get answers like “there’s not enough money” or “they don’t think there’s space in my room” or even “they don’t think I’d use it”. Well phooey, time to give up right? WRONG! It’s time to get creative.

Look! I made an iPhone/iPod projector for 5 bucks just to prove a point for this blog post! (and it WORKS!)



 Check out how to make this at this website

   There are so many ideas for low cost classroom technology alternatives out there on the web that the excuse “I just don’t have it” is really not an excuse to me anymore. Tell me you don’t have a projector I will MAKE you one right there on the spot. Once you get creative with these low cost alternatives the last objection “they don’t think I’ll use it” flies right out the window! Sometimes, you just have to go a little further to prove to your tech department and administrators that you too can use technology successfully and creatively in your music classroom.

  No speaker system? Have a glass handy?


Or if you have a second you can throw together this puppy with a cardboard tube and two solo cups


      If you’re really ready for a challenge and itching for a smart board, try using a Wii remote control: http://johnnylee.net/projects/wii/ 

        Those excuses people give me for not having technology in their classroom? Yeah, I’ll make you a projector or set of speakers on the spot, I know you’ve got an iPod or smartphone handy everybody does. There are so many of these awesome hacks online in places like Pinterest .

     So remember, technology doesn’t have to be a fancy state of the art projector or a 1,000 dollar speaker system. If you’ve got 5 minutes and the right stuff sitting in your room or house, the possibilities become amazing.

Ending The School Year

Let me say first, I am jealous of those who are telling me you only have a few more days left of school. I have 4 weeks left starting next week and am trying to think about how to end the year with a bang. For most of you that means crazy kids, fun filled days with lots of programs, concerts, and assemblies, and the terrible horrible spring fever..dun dun DUUUNNNN. I decided to post some things I have done in the past to help combat the end of the year blues!




Inside Fun: 

Floor Drumming– All you need is a bunch of rhythm sticks and a few popular tunes to be able to do this. I have a playlist of Kidz Bop songs that I use and just press play after I pass out sticks. I teach the students a couple of different ways to play before we get started and then just tell them to keep the beat any way they want on the floor and sing along.  The kids get a complete kick out of it and its a great way to beat out some end of the year frustration.


Quaver Quests– If you’re a Quaver Teacher like me, then this is a great review. I wrote a bunch but you can always write your own. Gives the students some independence that they want towards the end of the year and is a great review for them as well. If you would like to see my quests check out: Quaver Quests


Free Computer Play– I put a list of websites the kids can explore during the period and bring in a computer cart and let them go (you can also have them in a computer lab.) Some website recommendations are: www.quavermusic.com, www.incredibox.com, www.sfskids.com, www.nyphilkids.org, www.dsokids.com


Recycled Instruments– I’m actually doing this with a class of 3rd  graders right now. I collected scrap paper, cardboard, rubber bands, tape, paper clips anything I could find and dumped it on the floor after we talked about string and percussion instruments and told them to go for it. After they are done making their instrument they can color and decorate before we get together and just play. This is a great way to get rid of unwanted or unused office supplies!


Communal Drumming– I use to be very much into learning about communal drumming activities and still do some with my kids. My two favorite to play are from the Facilitator series by Kalani. One is called Rumble Ball and the other is a hot/cold game where students need to play faster when the seeker is closer to the object and slower when they are further away.


Outside Fun:

Drum Circle– I have a full set of kids percussion instruments, I have each student pick one (Or I pick for them.) We then carry them outside and we start by doing a couple warmups and playing rhythms together before dividing it up by instrument and start a jam session with each instrument playing their own ostinatos!


Found Objects Performance– Give them 20 minutes and a whole area to find something they can play as an instrument and bring it back to the circle before time is up. After, treat it like a drum circle and get playing.


Chalk Notation– I have a bucket of sidewalk chalk and permission from my principal and we go out and take up the black top on the playground and write measures of 4 beats. They then grab a partner and clap it together before adding more or going to the next free space and making another one. By the end of class the whole blacktop is filled with music!

Bean Bag Throw Composing– I had my Dad help me with this one. I bought him two large pieces of Plywood and he cut out 5 bean bag sized holes in each. I then painted a note or rest near each one. I put the kids into teams and give them a piece of staff paper for each team and a set of bean bags. They take turns throwing and must fill 4 measures of 4 beats each to win. If they get it a note that won’t fit then they must keep trying until they do! In order to win the whole team must say or clap their rhythms after they are done.


Outdoor iPad Band– I love this, we have a set of iPads I can rent out for the day. Each one has the Garageband app on it. I have kids each take one or partner up on them and choose on of the smart instruments in the app. We then come up with ostinatos each instrument can play. Then it turns into a giant jam session. I sometimes record it and they listen to it after to hear how great they sound!


How are you getting ready for summer? 



Cover it up!

  It’s been quite a busy and stressful week, we recently had a change in administration which brought on some chaos this week with the kids not exactly knowing the authority figure in the school. Luckily things began to calm down as the week progressed and I have high hopes with a new consistent authority figure in the school beginning next week we’ll be back to normal! I’ve been getting a horrible case of cabin fever though. If you know me I LOVE to travel and I think with all the snow and the monotony of the school day I’ve got ants in my pants and I’m ready to GO SOMEWHERE..I know it’s only been three weeks since TMEA but..I’m ready for another adventure!

This month is Music in Our Schools Month.  I have been planning occasional special things from week to week and one thing I like to do is bring in current or recent hits and play them to have a quick discussion at the beginning of the class. It is a great listening activity, gets the students roped into the lesson, and promotes listening to music outside of the classroom in a different way.

This week I did a quick discussion of a song cover. We discussed how one can have an original song and then another artist can take that song that is already recorded and shared and make it their own and record it to share. We talked about how not all the songs on the radio are written by the singer they hear singing it some of them are covers where the singer they know redid someone else’s song.

The great part about Youtube is that you can find song covers from many people. We focused on the song “Let it Go” from the movie Frozen.

With the Alex Boye one we had a discussion on how covering a song can leave you open to really be creative with a song you already know and do your own thing. With the video from Jimmy Fallon we talked about how even though it is Queen Elsa singing it, it is still a different song because of the instruments being played in the background, in order to cover a song it needs to be different from the original…and then I promised them I would try to get them together to play the Jimmy Fallon version next week!

Every single class asked if we could do this again next week with a different song.

 A couple other cool covers you can do this discussion with?

Roar by Katy Perry- The Glee Cast does a great cover

Mario Theme song, Play the original and then search for it on Youtube played by an orchestra there are a few great arrangements out there.

What are you doing for MIOSM? How are you going to make it special for your students?


Joytunes; Apps and Games to Get Kids Playing

So it has been a weird week, I just got back from Texas and this coming week is winter break. I have been really sitting in limbo.  It is truly difficult to teach anything new the week before break but since I just returned from another amazing TMEA conference I’ve been experimenting with a few  tech tools and different ways to use them in class. One being the Joytunes family of products.

Have you ever heard of Joytunes? They have a fantastic set of practice products for students learning recorder and piano.

I’ve found myself using these apps with my recorder students and my after school piano students all the time seeing great results in the process especially with their piano apps. The thing that makes Joytunes apps stand out to me is the way it recognizes real instruments allowing the user to control the game using a real recorder or a real piano. One of the arguments music teachers make when debating about technology in the classroom is that it takes away students experience with a physical instrument. What these teachers do not know is that with the advances in technology, that argument is no longer valid and using an app like the ones Joytunes provides with a built in microphone we can turn a piece of technology into a valuable practice tool.

With all of these tools, I have found ways to use them inside the classroom and outside. 

  • Playing Recorder Master as a class.
  • Having students play Recorder Master as an assessment logging their scores.
  • Practicing Recorder Master at home
  • Using Dust Buster or Piano Mania as a warmup or incentive tool for private lessons.
  • Having those students whom I can’t fit into my private piano schedule learn beginner piano at home using one of the piano apps.
  • Learning about different national anthems using the Piano Summer Games app
  • Printing out some of the free sheet music for my piano students or students who want piano music.

     The possibilities become endless.

    Have I peaked your interest yet? Are you trying to tell me you do not have an iPad? or maybe you can’t afford such a mystical tool. Head to joytunes.com where you can play the recorder games for free right on the website all you need to do is make sure you have a microphone somewhere on your computer. The website also offers free piano sheet music for beginner piano students!

To download the Free apps click on one of the following links below:

Dustbuster:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/id502356539?mt=8

Piano Mania: https://itunes.apple.com/US/app/id604699751?mt=8

Piano Summer Games: https://itunes.apple.com/app/id540759434 

Recorder Master: https://itunes.apple.com/app/recorder-master/id492065346

How do you get your students interested in practicing?


Makey Makey Me Some Problem Solving

  I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday! Mine is still filled with family, friends, and really cool new toys. One toy I have been in love with is a Makey Makey set my Sister got me for Christmas. I had been looking at this for a long time but came to the conclusion I would never buy it for myself, she got it for me this Christmas. If you are unfamiliar with Makey Makey visit: www.makeymakey.com . 

   The kit is basically is a circuit board programed to act like a game controller. You hook the circuit board using a USB cable to your computer and it acts like an alternative keyboard. Using alligator clips you connect to the board and then electrical conducting materials to the other end. When the circuit is complete you can use the software  Makey Makey has designed on their website to use your new controller with. 

After playing with this sweet toy my geeky side came out and I began to think..this would be a fantastic demonstration for our District STEM Committee! STEM for those who do not know is a newer educational initiative standing for ScienceTechnologyEngineeringMathematics. ( http://www.stemedcoalition.org ) way of integrating all 4 areas into the classroom to promote critical thinking, problem solving, and encourage career paths into those 4 areas (especially with female students.) We have a district committee based entirely on that initiative and helping educators in our district bring more of it into all of our schools. 

A newer initiative that is being petitioned is to turn STEM into STEAM, adding Arts into the mix. Now STEM has been around for a few years, STEAM being captained by the Rhode Island School for Design is trying to prove that the Arts are needed at the center for this STEM initiative to promote the integration of Arts and Design and influence employers that they need to hire artists and designers to drive innovation. ( http://stemtosteam.org )

     Now having been in both worlds of STEM and STEAM (I’m a computer nerd, car junkie, with electrical experience who is a musician who likes to craft and create artwork on the side.) I see both sides to this argument. I know from an Arts standpoint promoting creativity and innovation for our future is a must. STEM will only go so far, its the being able to think outside the box and emotional connections that the Arts teaches will create well rounded children who will go out into the world and will make it better. It will promote careers in areas such as Music Technology, Graphic Design, and so many more new career paths that are created every day. On the other side of it, there has been such a drop in students going into careers in the 4 STEM subjects, especially females. When I was in college working at the computer help desk. I got a good look into the computer science department workings (almost switched majors my freshman year!) and the lack of females was scary, there is a need to promote these careers and the systematic and problem solving thinking they teach. To come up with solutions through a step by step process, to promote how to come up with multiple solutions and test each hypothesis until the correct solution is found, to learn how to be able to research the proper ways. It has a purpose, STEM and the Arts promote to each their own. Now for those of you who are reading and thinking I am on the STEM or STEAM side..I’M ON NEITHER..I have researched both and understand both sides. I am an Arts person so if it came down to it I would be with STEAM, but, I know and understand both reasonings and am just typing this to educate and not champion.

        Now back to those Makey Makeys

Like my whip cream piano? I created that using the Makey Makey kit! I had to find a conductor for the piano program, and whip cream was just one experiment. Then I had to make sure I completed the circuit before I experimented to find out how Jingle Bells worked on it.

So I:

  • Used the scientific process to create an experiment
  • Problem solved when my circuit wasn’t working
  • Designed my whip cream piano
  • Used my creativity to find a unique conductor
  • Put my technology skills to work using the program on the website to create the circuit and use the program.

Perfect STEM or STEAM project right? There can be so many projects out there that can be STEM projects involving the Arts. This simple project involved all of that. What project could you do in class that could be STEM projects integrating the Arts into it?