Skip to main content


Beginning the School Year With the Best Attitude

Recent posts

Starting Chorus Off Right

Chorus has always been the bane of my existence. My piano skills are lacking. I love to sing, but can't play piano and pay attention to conducting and classroom management at the same time. It's harrowing. I teach in a building with no piano. I am thrilled about that. But I want to give my students an outstanding choral experience.

I think every music teacher feels like a hack at some component of their practice. It could be classroom management, keyboard skills, teaching winds or brass or strings, melodic Kodaly elements, any number of things. There is so much that we have to know. I've been struggling and working through my shortcomings and have landed on some procedures and techniques that I think you can benefit from too. Here they are.

Responsive Classroom
This concept is an oldie but goodie. I've touted this in previous posts, but this has really saved my life in chorus. I have found that the goal-setting, form of morning meeting, teacher language, and interacti…

End of the year survival guide

Let's face it, you've had it. Time to register the grades and just have fun. I recently discovered these songs and sites. It would be wrong of me to keep it to myself. Enjoy!

Open strings on ukulele are so much fun to play! You can do all your so-mi-la songs, so-mi songs, do-mi-so songs, do-mi-so-la songs on uke open strings! So write out some in stick notation and put on a backing track. Pluck away.

Step 1: tutti reading the rhythms
Step 2: tutti reading numbers in rhythm
Step 3: 30 seconds of practice for the children
Step 4: put on the track and play it over and over.
Step 5: play the stick notation piece interspersed with kids improvising on the open strings in any way that is non-strumming. They can pluck, pinch (two strings) and explore.

Ukulele a la Timberlake These two Justin Timberlake songs are clean and only use two chords!
Can't stop the feeling
Play 8 C chords and 8 a minor chords. Easy peasy. When there is no highlight, just pat the ukulele on the off-beats.…

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.

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…