Category Archives: Teaching Tip Tuesdays

Teaching is Very Rewarding

A student surprised me today with these very thoughtful gifts.

Teacher Gift

I was overwhelmed to see the time and effort he put in to them. He 3D printed my logo and my favourite picture from my wedding.

Wedding 3D Print

When you hold it up to the light, the picture reveals itself.

Fairy Tale Wedding

I still can’t believe that this is actually me. It’s a photograph that looks like in belongs in a magazine. It’s absolutely perfect, as are these presents from a student. The computer disk contains even more pictures.  I just need to hook up my Commodore 64 to access them. I can’t wait.

I have gotten gifts from students before and appreciate every single one. I don’t normally share them online, but felt I had to today. It’s a part of teaching that is worth sharing. It shows that I make strong connections with my students and that I make a difference in this profession.

What are some of the best gifts you have gotten from your students?

Please share below in the comments.

Teaching Tip Tuesday – inspiration and ideas from my classroom to yours

Student Choice in Instrumental Music

It’s difficult to manage student choice in an instrumental music class. There are so many things to consider. The first of which is assigning instruments to your students. It is important to have a good variety of brass and woodwind instruments so that your class can sound like a full concert band.

This is a good set up for a class of 25 students (it is only meant as a guide and you need to be flexible)

  • 4 flute
  • 5 clarinet
  • 5 trumpet
  • 2 French Horn
  • 3 saxophone
  • 2 trombone
  • 2 euphonium
  • 2 Tuba

I normally don’t assign a student to percussion in beginning band classes. At least not right away. I have found that some students don’t have a good sense of timing and if they play poorly on a drum, it can throw the entire band off. It even throws off my timing when I conduct.

Starting everyone off with a brass or woodwind instrument is a good idea. You can always move a student to percussion later.

I used this form to let my students choose the instrument they would play this year. It worked out pretty well. I was able to give most of my students their first choice. Just make sure everyone picks three different instruments.

Some students will mark “saxophone” number one, two, and three. It always seems to be the most popular instrument choice. So by requiring your students to rank their choices in numerical order, you can have flexibility with how you assign them.

Instrument Choice Form

I hope you are finding my series on Teaching Beginning Band Class useful. If you have missed the previous posts, please check click these links and explore what has been working well for me for a few years now.

AMU3O: Instrumental Music – Semester Plan

First Week of a Beginning Instrumental Music Class (Part 1)

First Week of a Beginning Instrumental Music Class (Part 2)

Teaching Tip Tuesday – weekly inspiration from my class to yours

First Week of a Beginning Instrumental Music Class (Part 2)

Instrumental Music Teachers First Week (Part 2)This is part 2 of an on-going series for new instrumental music teachers who are leading a class of beginning music students.

Last week, I shared the first two lessons I taught my classes this year. This week, we will look at the next two lessons that you can use to kick off your semester.

Trying Out Mouthpieces 

Before the students pick the instruments they will be playing for the semester, it is a good idea to give them a chance to try out different mouthpieces. This gives them the chance to see how the the brass and woodwind instruments create sounds differently.

Small Group Instruction

One of the best ways to get your students playing quickly is to coach them individually or in small groups. I worked with four students at a time for a few lessons so that each student could get a chance to play both the flute and trumpet mouthpieces.

Small Group Ensembles (Orff Instruments)

  • Divide the class into groups of four. They can choose their own groups if they wish.
  • Demonstrate how to make a four piece band using the instruments we have (shakers, rhythms sticks, triangles, hand drums, etc.)
  • Ask them to create a piece together. (The teacher will work with one group of students to learn the flute and trumpet individually at this time)
  • Once they are done, a group that is ready to present a routine will present and trade spots.

Instrument Demonstration

  • Show the students how to get an instrument ready to play.
  • Set the case on the floor in front of you. Stress that it’s important to make sure the correct side is up.
  • Show them all three parts of the flute but that today, we will all get a chance to make a sound using just the head joint. This practice will help to ensure that the muscles in their lips develop so they can obtain a good sound on the flute.
  • Repeat this with the trumpet, show the students how to properly insert the mouthpiece by gently pushing it in until it stops. Do not push, shove, twist, or force it. If you push it in too hard, it will get stuck and we wont be able to get it out without a special tool that we don’t have. This will cost you or your parent’s money.
  • Never make the popping sound on a trumpet. If the mouthpiece gets stuck, you will have to pay to have it removed. Demonstrate this noise by by holding the mouthpiece slightly out of the instrument. Stress that this is something that is strictly not allowed. Ever! If the mouthpiece gets stuck, the case won’t even close. This is an easy repair to avoid.

Sterisol Procedure

  • Spray the mouthpiece. Wait two minutes, wipe it with a paper towel.

Flute Instruction (Small Group)

  • The student should put his/her lips together. Tell him to close his mouth completely but not tightly. Blow the air out through the lips. Do not pucker the lips and do not smile. The opening of the lips is a result of blowing the air and not making any special shape.
  • The student should use the syllable “pu” to blow the air out. You are holding the flute for them at this point so you can adjust it as need be. Praise any sound produced at this point.
  • When the student gets a few good sounds in a row, remove the mouthpiece from his mouth and quickly replace it and have him play again. He should get a sound easily. If not, move it for him. Then have him place his hand at the end of the head joint but not covering the open end.
  • Once they make a sound, remove your hand and have him play again. Once he gets a few good sounds, ask him to place the headjoint on his lap, reposition the mouthpiece, and play it again. The student should remember the best place to place the flute now.
  • If time allows, have them place their hand against the opening to produce a tugboat sound. Then challenge the student to play “Mary Had a Little Lamb” by using his index finger at different depths in the opening. Then ask them to play a high and a low sound simply by blowing.

Trumpet Instruction (Small Group)

  • First, wet your lips and try to buzz them. Now try it with a mouthpiece only. Make a siren sound. Gently, place the mouthpiece into the trumpet. Do not push, shove, twist, or force it. If you push it in too hard, it will get stuck and we won’t be able to get it out without a special tool that we don’t have. Never slap or tap the mouthpiece when it is inserted. Never pop the mouthpiece.
  • Left hand holds the trumpet. The thumb goes to the side of the cylinders. The ring finger may go into the third valve ring. The thumb of the right hand is placed under the tubing leading from the mouthpiece. The first three fingers go over each valve with an arch in and the ends of the fingers over each valve.
  • Try to make a sound. If they are having difficulties, ask them to make a sour lemon face and buzz with that shape of lips. Have them play an open note (either G or C, don’t worry which one they make) Praise the note and then ask them to play a lower / higher one. Have them practice with whole notes and quarter notes.

Listening Activity 

Introduce STILL time (Silent Time for Individual Listening Logs) and complete a listening log. Play Viennese Musical Clock by Zoltan Kodaly. Ask the students what instruments they hear in the piece – tubular bells, trumpets, celesta, piccolo, triangle and what it makes them think of.

Teaching Tip Tuesdays – Lessons and inspiration from my class to yours

First Week of a Beginning Instrumental Music Class (Part 1)

Instrumental Music Teacher's First WeekHere are the first few lessons I used to start off the term with a brand new, introductory music class.

I hope that you will find them useful. Teachers helping teachers is what this is all about.

Day 1 Music Lesson Plan

Creation-Time

  • Give the students ten minutes to create something out of Play-Doh. The goal is to make something that “is in some way representative of themselves. They can have complete creative license to make anything they want as long as it is classroom appropriate. Explain that the class will see their creation, you will ask a question or two about it, and then have them tell us their name. They will not have to come to the front of the room and the whole process will take thirty seconds or less. That simple explanation of what to expect helps lower the stress students feel about speaking in the front of the class.”
  • While the students are working on their creations, walk around, have informal conversations, and get to learn a bit about some of the students. You can help them come up with ideas and use all of this info to help design hooks to lesson later on in the year.
  • Next, ask them to sculpt “Music” – think of the effects that sounds have on people and the images that music brings to your mind and then give it a form

Listening Activity

  • Play “Viennese Musical Clock by Zoltan Kodaly and ask students to respond to it on the worksheet from Listening Kit 3
  • Take up the worksheet with the students

Music Play Along

  • Divide class into four sections (rhythm sticks, hand drums, shakers, triangles) and instruct the class how we will be playing along with the recording. (Also from Listening Kit 3)

Teacher Note  Even though these activities are aimed at a primary level, they work for beginning band classes in middle school and high school. My first class was a success for Grade 11 AMU3O.

Day 2 Music Lesson Plan

Beat and Rhythm Boxes

  • Draw 8 boxes on the board with a quarter note in each box. Then say, “All types of music must keep a steady pulse or beat. This is just like the clock that keeps on ticket. The beat does not change throughout the song. It stays constant and steady. It does not speed up or slow down,. Let’s keep a beat by tapping 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4. Beat is often arranged in groups of 4 that is why we are counting to four instead of eight.”
  • Rhythms change as you tap or clap different beats, but you have to make the rhythm fit the beat. Now let’s erase a few of the notes. We will tap the pattern out, when we get to a blank box, we will take a rest. Now we can try a 2 part piece. One half of the class will tap the top pattern. Let’s try it now. The other half of the class will tap the bottom pattern. Let’s try it. Now we will try it together.
  • All of the notes so far have been worth one beat. They are called quarter notes and sometimes referred to as “Ta.” Now we will work with eighth notes. These are worth half a beat. We need two of them to make one beat, referred to as “Ti-Ti”
  • Let’s play a two part pattern.
  • Now I want you to write a perform your own compositions. When you are ready to tap or clap yours for me, please let me know. When you are ready, I want you to work with a partner.

Instrument Families

  • Work through the package together going through percussion, brass, and woodwind instruments. Tell the students that they should start thinking about which one of these they would like to play this term. Write down a list of concert band instruments on the board that we will be playing – flute, clarinet, alto saxophone, trumpet, trombone, euphonium. (from Listening Kit above)

Listening Activity

  • Introduce STILL time (Silent Time for Individual Listening Logs) and complete a listening log. Play Viennese Musical Clock by Zoltan Kodaly. Ask the students what instruments they hear in the piece – tubular bells, trumpets, celesta, piccolo, triangle and what it makes them think of.

Music Game

  • Staff races – Draw a staff on the board and demonstrate where the musical notes are. Play notes on a keyboard and ask the students to stand on the correct space or line. Have a student play some notes and see if the students can move to the correct positions.

Teacher Note – I adopted this from Music Lessons: Grade 1-3 and it is still a great introduction activity for beginning band classes and a nice refresher for the other students as well.

Continued Next Week

After this brief introduction to music, I like to give the students a chance to try out various mouthpieces before they get to choose which instrument they would like to learn this term. I will share exactly how I do that next week here on Teaching Tip Tuesday.

Teaching Tip Tuesday – weekly inspiration from my classroom to yours

 

Long Range Plans – AMU3O (Grade 11 Music)

AMU3O Unit Plan

I am back to teaching and loving every minute of it. I have a Grade 11 music class full of eager students wanting to learn how to play an instrument for the first time. As such, if you are a Grade 7 or 8 instrumental music teacher, you may find this long range plan to be perfectly suited to your classroom as well.

We work on a shortened semester at my school but you can easily adapt this semester plan to fit the needs of your school and classroom.

I will be sharing my weekly plans here over the next term as well, so please bookmark this blog and come back often.

AMU3O Semester Plan – Winter 2017 (PDF)

AMU3O Semester Plan – Winter 2017 (Word)

The method book in this unit can be downloaded for free here . . .

Band Fundamentals in Easy Steps – Book One

as can the GPS – Grade Performance Steps books

GPS – The Road to Musical Success

And remember that there are hundred of tips, tricks, lessons, and best practices right here every Tuesday!

Teaching Tip Tuesday Archive

The Inner Game of Work

the-inner-game-of-work-timothy-gallwey

The Inner Game of Work by W. Timothy Gallwey

I started a research project to see how we could let students choose what they want to learn in school and it led me to some very interesting books, articles, and videos. I will be sharing some of that with you over the course of this year as I continue this exploration.

As some of you may know, I quit teaching last year. There is an educator in me that just won’t quit, however. And so when I read this passage, I immediately identified with it.

A New Approach

“My first career was as an educator, a profession still notorious for being slow to embrace real change. Ironically, education is supposed to be about learning, and thus about change. It should provide insight and wisdom about change as well as set a good example. Yet it was not until I left the corridors of institutionalized education that I began to discover a profoundly different approach to learning and change.”

The distance away from teaching, as well as my continued research into finding a better way to teach and for schools to operate, has given me a new perspective. I am convinced that I am a much better teacher now because of that.

I love how Gallwey address my thesis topic in this passage too.

“I had to learn to give choices back to the student. Why? Because the learning takes place within the student. The student makes the choices that ultimately control whether learning takes place or doesn’t. In the end, I realized that the student was responsible for the learning choices and I was responsible for the quality of the learning environment.”

I think if students had more choice in school, there wouldn’t ne this lack of engagement and motivation that I see time and time again. School could actually be a fun place for kids to come and learn. There need to be some major changes in the public education system and the way we teach. We need to embrace change, as Gallwey contests.

Let Our Students Make Mistakes!

We also need to let our students flounder, to make some mistakes, and to discover things on their own. Here is why . . .

“Probably our parents, eager to be “good parents,” solved some of the problems that should have been left to us to solve so that we could gain skill and confidence. We come to expect this kind of help from the coach or parent. We may get an answer, but we don’t develop the skill or self-confidence to cope with similar problems in the future. In turn, we tend to validate ourselves as parents and coaches by solving the problems of our children or clients.”

We Can’t Solve Our Students’ Problems!

“Once you realize it’s not the job of the coach to solve the problem . . . for the most part the job of the coach is to listen well, but there’s more to it. Effective coaching . . . holds a mirror up for [students], so they can see their own thinking process. As a coach, I am not listening for the content of what is being said as much as I am listening to the way they are thinking, including how their attention is focused and how they define the key elements of the situation.”

Teachers as Coaches

Teachers should aim to be more like the coaches Gallwey describes in this book. In fact, if you substitute the word teacher in every place he uses the word coach in this book, the message becomes all the more clear on what we should be doing in schools to truly help and reach all of our students.

Teaching Tip Tuesday – inspiration and ideas for classroom teachers (an on-going series)

My List of 2016 Reads – an on-going reading log with detailed posts about each title

What’s Your Something Special?

What's Your Something Special book

What’s Your Something Special? by Catherine Gibson and Mary Fletcher

We all have something special locked up inside us. It might be hard to find, and some of us might not even know to look for it, but it is there.

This book taps into the power of imagination and self-discovery. It’ s a story that our youth need to see, hear, and experience. Perhaps this can be a window into something greater.

Not all of us have a physical limitation like Samantha, but I still think we can identify with her and the longing she feels to do something more with her life. It also helps to show that children in wheelchairs can be the star of a story.

Last month, I wrote about how we need to make sure our students are reflected in the texts we have available in the classroom. If you have ever had a wheelchair bound student at your school, and even if you haven’t, this would be a great book to add to your classroom library.

Teaching Tips – an archive of great resources for classroom teachers (NEW TIP featured on the third Tuesday of every month)

Look, It’s Me! – Making Our Students Visible in Print

Look, it's me!I taught in Northern Ontario on a First Nation Reservation. It was pretty much at the top of the map of Ontario. There were no roads into this community. The only way to get there was to fly on a little charter plane and land on a dirt runway. In the winter, you could drive over the frozen lake when the winter road was open. It certainly was a brand new experience for me.

The isolation was really something. Without the distractions of city life, I found the time to write the novels I had always wanted to. With one title under my belt, I kicked around some ideas for my next work of fiction.

I was walking home with the principal one day and I told him of my idea for my next story. He seemed indifferent to what I thought was an amazing story idea. And then he said something that really inspired me. He said that the kids up here really needed to see themselves in more stories.

Something clicked in me when he said that. Almost immediately I began work on a young adult novel set on a fictional reserve much like the one I was living in. When I was finished the story, I read it to my class and they thoroughly enjoyed it.

I hadn’t thought much about the characters and settings in the books I chose to share with my class prior to that. Now, I am very conscious of choosing stories and making books available where my students can see themselves reflected in the work.

I have always seen myself in popular culture I am only now beginning to understand my white privilege. There isn’t a lot I can do about that, other than call attention to it, and embrace other cultures as much as possible.

I am enthusiastic about sharing works of other cultures. I would also like to do this in very subtle ways if I ever happen to run a library. I would feature books, articles, comics, and online resources that reflect the heritage of my students. I would place these in open sight and let the works speak for themselves.

Teaching Tip Tuesday – The Third Tuesday of every month!

Why You Should Always Ask for Advice

This is a great video to share with your students.

I know many students who are afraid to ask questions in class. They stay quiet and struggle with their work, or worse yet, they don’t do the work at all.

It’s always best to build a culture of learning in the classroom that allows our students to feel comfortable not knowing something. It’s okay to ask questions, of your peers, and of your teacher.

I do my best to admit, publicly, in class when I don’t know something or when I have made a mistake. I hope this role-modelling will teach my students that it is okay not to know. It’s okay to ask for help. We all need it some time.

I just discovered this animated YouTube series and there are lots of great videos with educational material in them. Well worth checking out.

Teaching Tip Tuesday – now coming at you on the 3rd Tuesday of each month

8 Online Tools for Students and Educators

8 Tools for Students and EducatorsSomeone approached me and asked to contribute a guest post for my Teaching Tip Tuesday series.

Over the years, I have had some great tips submitted from readers all over the globe.

I found out that this latest one though was a thinly veiled attempt at self promotion. Even worse that that, it linked to a site and service that cut against everything I believe about education.

I almost deleted the post outright. Instead, I edited in heavily and let it stay in place. I have since reconsidered. I wrote this rebuttal and erased the entire post.

I am sorry that I was duped this way and hope not to be again. I will be very critical of further guest -post submissions.

Thank you!

Teaching Tip Tuesday – advice, lessons, tips and tricks for classroom teachers  (once a month)

Schools Can Be So Much Greener

Making Our Schools GreenerWhen we think of the cost of school, we rarely think of the buildings themselves. It is important to remember that they have both a financial cost and an environmental one.

Energy Use

“School buildings are the third biggest energy users. A mid-size school district may spend $1 million yearly on energy, a number that is increasing by around 19 percent each year.”

I found that number to be mind-blowing when reading the article, 10 Ways to Green Your School by J.H. Fearless. And that wasn’t the only thing that caught my attention.

Environmental Costs

“Poor indoor air quality negatively affects students’ performance, and schools remain a huge source of pollution and waste that degrades the environment.”

I know some of our old buildings aren’t the best places for students to learn. I hadn’t even thought about any negative health consequences associated with our schools. It definitely is something worth considering.

“Going to school can actually harm your health. Nearly half of all schools (43 percent) have unsatisfactory indoor environmental conditions, and 20 percent have unsatisfactory air quality. That’s partly due to aging school buildings, but also related to an overall decrease in indoor air quality thanks to reduced air circulation and more synthetic substances in our daily lives. One in ten school-age kids now suffer from asthma, so poor air quality isn’t just an annoyance—it can be life threatening.”

What Needs to Be Done

Our schools need some major upgrades. But there are also things that we can do as teachers and students to makes things better.

So, let’s “take action to improve indoor air quality and reduce exposure to toxic substances for all teachers and students.”

Organize Classroom Cleanup Days

Sometimes, it’s hard to keep a classroom clean. I try my best to keep my work area clean for purely aesthetic reasons, but there are health benefits too.

“Some of the biggest health concerns lurking in your classroom exists under all your stuff. Cluttered surfaces, cupboards, and corners harbor dust and mold. Organize some classmates or fellow parents to stay after school once a month to declutter. You’ll help reduce asthma triggers, and your teachers and custodians will thank you.”

Use Green Cleaning / Maintenance Materials

“Toxic cleaning supplies, pest poisons, paints, furnishing finishes, and even chemical fertilizers and ice melt threaten kids’ health. They’re also toxic to cleaning and maintenance staff. Ask your school administration to seek out green solutions to various issues, including sidewalk weed control, ice melt in the winter months, and cleaning products.”

Get an Air Quality Meter

“Want to get a clearer idea of what you’re really breathing? Work with students and parents to raisefunds for or ask the school to invest in air quality meters, which will help students manage asthma. Additionally, the meters notify the school of any serious air quality issues, such as high CO2 levels, or elevated moisture that could cause mold.”

Organize a Local Food Day

“Consider teaming up with local restaurants, farms, or even food trucks to bring fresh, local food to school once a month or once every few months. Kids will get a chance to learn the benefits of local food, and you’ll be supporting the small businesses in your community.”

Set Up A Green Club

“Take environmental education into your own hands. A student club can take real action on school issues. Your club may create a school-wide recycling or composting program; learn about growing your own food with a school garden; organize cleanup and planting days; raise funds for green initiatives; and even take part in statewide and national green schools competitions. Through all this, students will learn leadership, teamwork, and how great feels to make a positive difference.”

Form a Carpooling, Cycling, or Walking Group

“Save time for busy parents, conserve energy, and make friends with a community carpool or other transportation group. By getting together with your neighbors, you can find new, more efficient ways to get to and from school. Carpools are the time-tested solution, but if you live close enough to your school, think about organizing a group to ride bikes or walk together. As a bonus, parent chaperones will get their daily exercise, too.”

Install Energy Meters

“It’s a lot easier to understand energy use when you can see it in action. Energy meters that are visible to any student and teacher aren’t just great learning tools— they can also encourage everyone to conserve energy and water throughout the day. Many schools have started sharing their energy use in this way. Monitoring not only creates savings for the school’s power, heat, and water budgets, but can also be incorporated into friendly school-wide competitions and classroom sustainability lessons.”

Save Money, Save the Environment

“If you asked your school administration, they’d probably be the first to tell you that they would love to upgrade your school with more modern, sustainable, and healthy features. Unfortunately, most schools have tight budgets, and they have to make tough choices about how to allocate funds.”

That said, it shouldn’t be surprising that environmentally sustainable schools—with increased efficiency and health benefits—are also more financially sustainable. For example:

It Increases Efficiency and Health Benefits

Test scores and learning ability improve by three to five percent when a school incorporates natural daylight—equating to an annual earning increase of $532 per student.

Building a green school costs less than 2 percent more than a conventional school (about $3 per square foot) but provides 20 times the financial benefits.

A green school saves an average of $100,000 annually—enough to hire two new teachers, buy 250 new computers, or purchase 5000 new textbooks.

Green schools utilize 33 percent less energy and 32 percent less water than traditional schools.

On average, a green school produces:

  • 1,200 fewer pounds of nitrogen oxides (a principal component of smog)
  • 1,300 fewer pounds of sulfur dioxide (a principal cause of acid rain)
  • 585,000 fewer pounds of carbon dioxide (the principal greenhouse gas)
  • 150 fewer pounds of coarse particulate matter (a principal cause of respiratory illness)
  • 74 percent less waste

Do Your Part

How can you help your school go green? Start by reducing energy use, water use, waste, and pollution in everyday action. Calculate the savings your actions are creating, and lobby the school district to set aside that money for upgrades and improvements to facilities.

Teaching Tip Tuesday – Once a month, we feature articles designed by teachers for teachers

Harriet’s Big Adventure (Children’s Book Review)

Harriets Big Adventure

Harriet’s Big Adventure by Glenn S. Guiles and Raymond J. Whalen

Guiles is a fellow educator who believes in the power of a good story to enrich the lives of children and to help them learn. To that end, he has crafted a series of picture books featuring a miniature donkey by the name of Harriet.

The series is based upon the animals that he has on his very own farm in Adirondack State Park. In this second book, Harriet notices that her owner forgot to secure the latch to the gate. She wanders off in search of an adventure.

She comes across creatures she has never seen before including a squirrel, a porcupine, and two deer. Just when she begins to realize that her trek through the woods has taken her far from home, she notices that the trail looped up and brought her right back home.

She is thankful for her adventure and for her nice home.

This is pretty standard fair when it comes to illustrated children’s books. The story isn’t anything out of the ordinary, but the water-colour paintings really make it come to life.

I think students can identify with their yard always being the same and wanting to travel beyond the school grounds. As such, it would be a great read-aloud for a primary classroom.

Teaching Tip Tuesday Archive – Great tips, tricks, lessons, and inspiration for classroom teachers

Shake it Up in the Classroom

Shake It Up in the ClassroomThere are all sorts of things you can do to shake things up in your classroom. But teachers are expected to have a certain level of decorum. That is why I included the first item in this post. From there, it gets interesting. So, read on!

Dress Appropriately 

I think teachers should dress appropriately for school. Having a professional attire is just one of the things we should all be doing on a regular basis. I wear a tie to class at least three times a week.

Even on Fridays, when a lot of teachers dress down, I still wear casual pants and a golf shirt. Although, wearing jeans and a school t-shirt also works on the occasional spirit day or the day before a holiday.

Figure out how to incorporate art, drama, movement, and props in the lesson. You could even use food or beverages to create a positive atmosphere for a special lesson. Same goes with music and lighting.

Wear a Costume

But, I also like to shake things up by wearing a costume that compliments my lesson. This year, I have gone into role as a scientist. I wore a lab coat and glasses, and spoke with an accent. I even gave this character a name and back story. It was great!

There are all sort of ways you can use costumes in the class. I regularly have myself play the role of a guest speaker. I have been a construction worker, a football player, and of course, a pirate.

Involve the Audience

You need to ask yourself questions when designing your lesson. These questions will help you make your presentation more interactive and meaningful.

– How can I consistently keep the audience feeling involved?
– Can I cue them to make certain motions or sounds at key points?
– Can I incorporate call and response in this lesson?
– Can I bring students to the front of the room as volunteers?

Here is an idea that politicians or celebrities use during press conferences. Why not bring it into the classroom too?

– Have a student play a pre-arranged role and interact with them throughout the lesson. They key here is to keep this a secret so only you and that one particular student know what is going to happen.

Try Something New and Exciting in the Classroom

I hope my Teaching Tip Tuesday Series helps to inspire you and have you try something new and creative in your classroom!

This series normally runs every week during the school year. This year, it will be sporadic. I am not teaching right now, but still have some ideas I can share with all of you. Stay tuned to the blog for more!

Teachers are Such Failures

Teachers - Unfair Targets“It seems everybody is piling on teachers right now. We have become fashionable targets.”

People aren’t going to understand what we do. We will always face criticism and negative comments.

“Honestly, I don’t let it bother me and you shouldn’t either.”

Take Risks

Knowing this, it might seem easier to play it safe. I know a lot of people want us to stick to the tried and true methods of teaching. But, theses methods are no longer relevant and don’t inspire our students. It’s time to change and take risks!

“An all or nothing mentality exacerbates the fear of failure. If you believe everything you do has to work one hundred percent of the time, you are less likely to take risks and step out of your comfort zone.” 

We Learn From Mistakes

We expect out students to make mistakes and to learn from them.  We should do the same thing. If we only present lessons and material that we know has worked in the past, we don’t have the chance to fail.

Dave Burgess says, “If you haven’t failed in the classroom lately, you probably aren’t pushing the envelope enough. You are being too safe.”

How Do You Define Success?

Success isn’t something that is bestowed upon you by an outside source or test score. It doesn’t come from winning the championship or going undefeated. How then can we define success? 

I think John Wooden said it best: “Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you make the effort to do your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.”

Keep Your Enthusiasm, Stay Strong!

“You have to have the intestinal fortitude, self-confidence, and personal power to press on and do what you know is right for your students. Don’t allow misguided and ill-informed critics to steal your enthusiasm for innovation. If you let them, they will sap you of the strength needed to persist in this brutally tough profession.

You have to learn how to take a punch, bob and weave, and keep moving forward. What you do as an educator is too important to let somebody standing on the sidelines to prevent you from being the absolutely most powerful teacher you can be. Some people will just never get it! That’s OK. that’s their problem; you can’t let it become yours.”

Have a great summer!

This is the last post of my Teach Like a Pirate Series and the last Teaching Tip Tuesday entry of the year. I hope you all have a safe a happy summer. And if you haven’t read Dave Burgess’ book, I highly recommend you add it to your summer reading list.

Movie Making in the Classroom

Can it really be this easy to create a free green screen?

Green Screen

Apparently, all you need is green butcher paper and iMovie. I don’t have any experience using green screens but I am definitely intrigued!

April Kreitzer tried it out and wrote a nice tutorial here if you’d like to learn more.

I like the idea of making a movie with your class. I have done so in the past and the students really got a lot out of it. We wrote it together collaboratively. But we had to consider the practicality of shooting while we wrote it. We had to restrict the setting to locations we had available to use. With a green screen, we would no longer be restricted to just shooting in the school or yard. The students’ imaginations could run wild. And that is a beautiful thing!

Teaching Tip Tuesday Archive – over 200 great tips, tricks, and inspiration for classroom teachers!

Education Outside the Curriculum – A Guide for Teachers

Outside the CurriculumAn efficient teacher is the one who opens up the box of creativity and innovation and allows the students to indulge in something totally novel and different.

Merely sticking to the curriculum and instructing students from the highlighted box is not at all a competent option.

The process of teaching is not at all limited to writing notes on the board and teaching the students by revolving around the course. A wider part of teaching lies outside the curriculum.

A lot of elements are supposed to be incorporated by a proficient teacher; from an immense knowledge of curriculum to the fulfillment of morality and ethical norms, a teacher should have it all.

So moving aside the box, we need to teach the students the basic and the fundamental aspects of living and dwelling in the society, with the indoctrination of character education as well as acquainting with the elements of unity and discipline.

In a nutshell, teaching and learning can both become instantly spontaneous if they are taken outside theboundaries of the classroom and are particularly student- centered. The unique way of learning, which is attained only through the aspects and limitations of classrooms can result in productive consequences, which not only includes collaborative learning, but also develops relationships that are unique and constructive. This entire process of learning can be termed as deep if they move towards a modern, up-to-date approach from a conventional educational setup.

Character Education

Many schools have transformed their academic plans and introduced the concept of character education. Long ago, it was considered as an aspect of constant debates and arguments, but currently, character education is thought to be the most essential and indispensable. The way a society is made and initiated is an amalgamation of education as well as the essence of standard norms and values as per the society. They have sprouted in many schools as well as colleges are offering their major degree in this approach.

Unity and Discipline

What exactly are the factors that make a teacher so dependable and reliable? Well, here are the answers; moving ahead from educational and academic dilemmas, a competent teacher is the one who initiates the values of discipline and teamwork. This is also known asthe collaborative learning, which presently is thought to be a vital part of the academic program. Teachers are trained to instruct these elements to the students, so that more positive results are seen.

Experience and Practicality

Despite having immense knowledge and insights of the theoretical world, an expert teacher will be the one who tends to give preference to practicality along with theory. A theory or an everyday lecture seems useless, if they are not linked and justified with the added element of technicality and realism.

Insights with creativity

Thinking outside the conventional box is quite essential. Students learn instantly this way and the quality of learning is top notch. Therefore, creativity and innovation should be given preference and an able teacher allows their students to indulge themselves in inventiveness and imagination.

Guest Post by Melody Wilson

Rita – My New Favourite Show

Rita TV Series

Rita is a brilliant television series from Denmark that is now available on Netflix. It’s the first foreign language show that I have ever watched. You need to turn on the subtitles, but it is well worth the effort.

This is one of my favourite scenes from Season One. The story revolves around the school’s no sugar policy. A parent was outraged that another parent brought in treats to celebrate her daughter’s birthday. He said that the school was making sugar fun and that was the wrong message to give. So, he brought in some non-sugared treats for his son to share with the class.

At the end of that period, all of those tasteless treats were left behind. Some were even stabbed with pencils. The kid looked so embarrassed and downtrodden.

The next day Rita brought in some home-baked goodies with tons of icing sugar on them. She shared some with the staff and then made her way to the class.

 

Rita finds the student and gives the treats to him to distribute to the class. He felt like a million bucks and the kids all got a nice treat. It was a great scene. I love the reason she finally gave for being a teacher too!

In this next clip, a new teacher gets discouraged by an older teacher who tries to tell her that she was selfish for trying to start new programs. Her response is priceless.

 

I have had something close to both of these incidents in my teaching career. I could identify with the characters and story lines so much.

Season Three will be available soon. I can’t wait!

The thing about Rita is that she’s not perfect. She doesn’t have all of her life together. She might not even be the best role model, but she is a great teacher who really cares about her students.

The stories are great and so is the subject matter tackled. I love this show so much that I might just have to rework My Top 10 TV Shows of All-Time!

Happy Teaching!

Teachers and Students NEED Creativity!

We NEED CreativityI regularly think outside of the box and find ways to be creative in both my personal and professional life.

I often have co-workers comment about how creative I am. The thing often unsaid in these conversations is that they don’t see themselves as creative and they wish they could do these kind of activities in the classroom as well. But here is a very concrete truth I want to share with you and with them . . .

Everyone is Creative 

“Creativity is not the possession of some special class of artistic individuals, but is rather something that can be nurtured and developed in all of us – including your students!”

Don’t make excuses.

You can’t tell yourself that you aren’t creative.

“We all have unbelievable creative potential. It lies dormant just waiting – no begging – to be tapped.” 

Find Your Inspiration

Finding inspiration is easy. It is all around us. I often come up with great ideas for the classroom by reading something completely unrelated to the subject or topic. Or my trying something new in my personal life.

Here is a passage from Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess that explores this idea further . . .

“Becoming well-read and involved in a wide variety of interests provides us with the raw resources that we need for what I call Creative Alchemy. Too often, people believe creativity is some esoteric skill that involves coming up with completely original ideas out of the blue. That is rarely the way it works. “

Start a New Hobby

I know, there isn’t enough time to do all of the things we need  to do as a classroom teacher such as plan, photocopy, mark student work, and the hundred other things that always seem to pop up. It may seem counter-intuitive to take extra time to pursue a hobby. It is not though. I believe everyone should have a hobby or five.

“Spend more time on your passions, hobbies, and outside areas of interest and then seeks ways to incorporate them into your classroom. Cultivate new hobbies and watch new areas of your brain explode in creative output.”

I skateboard, rap, do a radio show, blog, and write fiction. All of these things I have been able to bring into the classroom in some way shape or form, and it has been amazing!

Expose Yourself to High Quality Thinking

This is a key item. Read a lot and don’t just read teaching related books.

“I believe the best books to read about teaching are rarely in the education section. . . . I consider it one of the most important part of my job to constantly expose myself to the high quality thinking of other people. It challenges me, it keeps me current, and it provides me the raw resources necessary for creative alchemy. 

Exploring the world and your passions allows you to bring a new perspective and energy into the classroom. It allows you to become a powerful role model for your students. We always say we want them to be life-long learners,  so we must show them what that looks like.”

Become a Well-Rounded Person

“Don’t fall into the trap of thinking time spent developing yourself into a well-rounded person, above and beyond your role as an educator, is wasted or something to feel guilty about. It is essential and will pay dividends in not only your life, but also in your classroom.”

I hope these tips have helped. You can be creative in your professional and personal lives and inspire your students at the same time. It is win-win!

Teaching Tip Tuesday – your weekly source for professional inspiration

Updated – Free Method Book for Beginning Band

Band Fundamentals in Easy Steps: Conductor GuideMy favourite resource for teaching instrumental music is a long out-of-print book called Band Fundamentals in Easy Steps.

I absolutely love it. It is organized brilliantly, starts out students with pieces they can immediately have success on, and it introduces new notes and topics at a good pace.

I have tried out other method books and am often disappointed that they seem to rely on the same 5 notes for every song. They don’t introduce new concepts, and as such, don’t teach the kids much other than simply playing new pieces.

I digitized the individual books for each instrument about a year and a half ago. Since then, I have had people tell me how much they appreciate this resource as well. I have even had requests to add the Conductor Book to the post.

I’m sorry that it has taken this long, but I have finally digitized the Conductor Guide. You can download it for free as a PDF file, print it out. and put it in a binder to keep in your classroom.

Here are all of the resources from Band Fundamentals in Easy Steps: Book 1. You can check out the original post for some more information as well.

Book 1: Alto Saxophone
Book 1: Clarinet
Book 1: Drums
Book 1: Euphonium / Baritone
Book 1: Flute
Book 1: French Horn
Book 1: Tenor Saxophone
Book 1: Trombone
Book 1: Trumpet
Book 1: Tuba

Book 1: Conductor’s Guide

Original Silent Cacophony Post

Download, print off, and enjoy. And you might want to keep a PDF version on your computer too. This way, you can project the piece of music you are working on directly to your Smartboard. I do this all the time and find it very useful. I hope you will too.

Teaching Tip Archive – great tips, lessons, and resources every Tuesday

You Need a Good Plan, Not a Good Excuse!

No Excuses (1)I got a lot out of Barbara Coloroso’s book, Kids Are Worth It. I took pages and pages of notes when I read it. The book is now full of underlines and margin notes.

I never used to be able to write in my books. I didn’t want to mess them up. I wanted them to be in mint condition even after having read them. But having a nice looking book isn’t as important as having one that speaks to you and one you can interact with. So, I recommend making underline notes in pencil (you could always erase them later.)

Here are some of the notes I made and passages I highlighted as I read

Confrontations

  1. When you are upset or angry, say so in an upset or angry tone of voice
  2. Tell the other person about your feelings
  3. State your belief out loud but avoid killer statements
  4. Close the tip gap between the hurt and the expression of hurt. Give direct feedback
  5. State what you want from the other person
  6. Be open to the other person’s perspective on the situation.
  7. Negotiate an agreement you both can accept

It is important, that as teachers and parents we model working through problems the same way and take responsibility for our actions. These seven steps are quite handy and I am going to post them in my classroom.

Admit the Mistake and Take Responsibility

Coloroso uses the term “backbone parent” to show the contrast between two other parenting styles that are not effective. In the quote below she illustrates how backbone parents would handle making a mistake. It’s how I want my students to handle them to, so I altered the beginning a bit.

[A good person] admits that she made a mistake, takes full responsibility for making the mistake, avoids making excuses, figures out how to fix the problem created by making the mistake, recognizes if and how another person was affected, and figures out what to do the next time so it won’t happen again.

No Excuses

I want my children to understand that when they have a problem, what they need is a good plan, not a good excuse.

Here are another set of steps worth posting up.

6 Steps to Problem Solving

  1. Identify and define the problem
  2. List viable options for solving the problem
  3. Evaluate the options—explore the pluses and minuses for each option
  4. Choose one option
  5. Make a plan and DO IT
  6. Evaluate the problem and your solution. What brought it about? Could a similar problem be prevented in the future? How was the present problem solved?

Remember you are helping her learn how to think—not what to think.

The Game and The Sit

When two students have a problem with each other, there is no way a teacher can solve it. The problem often will spill out into the yard and become a fight or it will spark up again on the bus. Giving the students time to own the problem and figure it out is the best solution. I’ll admit that this particular method would be difficult in a classroom, but it is still worth considering.

Here are the basics (you can find out more in the book if interested)

“You both seem really angry. Come over here and sit together on the couch. You can both get up as soon as you give each other permission to get up. What is it you need to do?”

Asking this question is very important and good teaching practice before sending students off on any task.

“Don’t demand an apology. “I’m sorry” has to come from the heart, not the head. If you demand an apology, you’ll probably get one of two kinds: (a) whiny or (b) “I’m sorry” followed by the apologizer slugging the other kid again

Neither can move. They both have the power over the other, but that power is connected to the other person’s power. Kids begin to see that they are not dependent or independent but truly interdependent—not controlled or controlling but rather influencing and influenced. Soon one says,

“You can get up.”
“But I’m not going to let you get up.”
“You may both get up as soon as you give each other permission to get up”

Finally they get the message that together they have the power to control the situation. Notice that they haven’t been punished. The goal is not to punish them. It is to discipline them. 

I still have more notes I can share with you about this book. And I picked up another Coloroso book at a used book sale last week, so I’ll probably have even more tips from her next year in this series.

Teaching Tip Tuesday – weekly advice and inspiration for teachers (over 200 entries so far)