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Black History Month: Duke Ellington

My two-year professional development goal is to develop 8 sub plans that a non-musician substitute can use and still be effective and musical. This is my Duke Ellington plan. It's fine for K-3 and consists of two parts: creative movement to Ellington's music performed by Ellington and his orchestra, and a reading of the picture book, Duke Ellington as the children do an Ellington coloring page.

The plan is below. You are free to use it yourself but please, have your friends print it off this site themselves. My goal is to get more readers.
Recent posts

Black History Month: Marian Anderson

Marian Anderson is an American Classic. Her contralto voice is beautifully controlled and a gift from God Himself! But God put that voice in a brown body, and that was terribly inconvenient for racist America. So Marian Anderson suffered. And America suffered because she was kept from us.

Racism is part of American history and part of the American culture. We have a Black History Month to acknowledge that black Americans are indeed Americans. Marian Anderson was a great American Opera Singer, just as amazing as Beverly Sills or the great divas of Europe: Lily Pons or Maria Callas. She was great like Yo Yo Ma is great on cello or Itzak Perlman is on violin. She's a great singer, not a great "black" singer.

Sorry to start off with a rant, but I've just been witnessing so much racism lately that I think this needs to be said. If you think it is too "political," I guarantee you are a white person. If you are offended, feel free not to read my blog. But I hope y…

Christmas Gift Wrapping Videos

I like to give you something to watch when you are wrapping gifts. I've done this post every year, and the videos keep getting funnier and funnier. Found some great Hannukah ones. Enjoy!


Same tune, lower production value but more Christmasy


I love this.








This next one just makes me happy. It's not comedy per se



Letterkenny This year, a former student introduced me to Letterkenny. This Canadian comedy has had me in stitches since I first viewed it.
You can see full episodes on the Daily Motion site.







This is not an exhaustive list of the great bits. Watch full episodes. You'll be glad you did.

Black Jesus
Moose Poop Art



Teaching Survivors of Trauma

Dr. Nadine Burke Harris wrote a wonderful, accessible book, The Deepest Well. This post is a review of the book and a reflection of its contents.

I teach children who have been through a variety of traumas. From physical, psychological, sexual, and emotional abuse to poverty, war, transience, and neglect. I teach foster kids, kids who live in battered women's shelters or homeless shelters, kids who need backpacks of food sent home every week. 18 of my 350+ students have no risk factors for lower academic achievement.

Our principal is dedicated to a school culture that gives these children a safe, peaceful place at school. If you ever interview to teach in a high-needs school, make sure you interview them right back. Make sure they have a dynamite principal. If they don't, don't take the job. You can't save the world alone. You definitely can't help the kids if you are slowly losing your own mind. I have an awesome principal. I am safe to find out what I don't kno…

Social and Emotional Learning--SEL

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) is the latest craze in education, and it's about time! Our students are more than data machines. They are complex individual human beings, trying to figure out how they fit in the world. As education deals with behavior from the standpoint of helping rather than punishing, thousands of teachers are finding their classrooms transforming into better places to be.

That having been said, I don't want to give you the impression that bad behavior is unaddressed in a Responsive, PBIS, or Second Step, SEL classroom. What I am saying is that those incidents are greatly reduced or eliminated all-together because of the front-loading of social and emotional skills.

Were these skills once learned at home?
Yup.
Why aren't they being learned now?
Wrong question. Teacher's can't change that. We have to teach the students society brings us. I strive to raise my child to have these skills. It is a priority in our family. I'll do me. You do yo…

Liquid Ass

So we've had another school shooting. By the time I post this, we will have had a few more. The NRA and President Bone Spurs would like us to arm teachers. Shooting another human being is not natural. Killing is not natural. Self-defense only feels natural when hand to hand combat is involved. Guns, even in the heat of  battle, are abstract. Perhaps the primary reason the United States has a volunteer army instead of a drafted one is that drafted soldiers are far less likely to actually fire at the enemy when the time comes. The kill instinct has to be trained into a soldier. It isn't natural, and it takes its toll on the soul. Plus, you'll probably miss and shoot an innocent student and die anyway.

So I offer a humble alternative. Well, maybe two, but one of them is actually entertaining.

1. ALICE training. Click on this. It's helpful.
2. Liquid Ass


Developed as a joke product, Liquid Ass makes an excellent deterrent to the progress of a shooter. Shooters expect thei…

Fergie vs "The Star Spangled Banner"

In case you haven't heard, the pop star, Fergie, sung the American national anthem at an NBA game recently. Her rendition was controversial. Some say it was downright bad. What do I think?

I think this is a good time to do a 2(or 3)lesson unit on patriotic songs for older students!
What better time to teach "The Star Spangled Banner" than when students are talking about it and interested in Fergie's interpretation? What better time to discuss artistic style then at a time like this?
I believe that this song, and the level of conversation needed to discuss the artistic merits of it, require a level of sophistication that students below grade 5 are not ready for. Since I teach younger students, I'm writing this for ya'll. Let me know how it goes.

Prep Essential Questions: What makes good music? What are the components of patriotic music? What makes good singing? How does music affect the audience? The singer?
Philosophical Questions Should every American school c…