Wednesday, November 19, 2014

I'm the FASTEST Turkey!

Tis the season in the music room!  Not only are we prepping for our annual Christmas program, but it IS the week before Thanksgiving, so we have been sneaking some fun Thanksgiving activities in our class time as well!  This week we began class with a fun movement idea from the Bulletin Board Lady, Tracy King - Thanksgiving Freeze Dance.  We loved dancing and then freezing to different poses projected on the SmartBoard by pilgrims, Native Americans and other fall characters.  Tracy has one ready to go for Christmas check it out!  Christmas Freeze Dance and Creative Movement.

 There are several other Thanksgiving songs (5 Fat Turkeys, Shoo Turkey, Over The River, Hip Hop Turkey etc.) that we like to sing, but I do believe that there is none other that the kids love more than the fun game, "I'm the Fastest Turkey."  All grades from K-3 love playing this game, and I think they could play it the whole class period if I'd let them! This is a game similar to duck, duck, goose, but with singing and in this case a beautiful Folkmanis turkey puppet.

In technology we have been in the holiday mood as well.  K-1st and 2nd graders have been doing a variety of online puzzles and games with turkeys.  One of the more challenging ones was Sort My Tiles.  Students had to match up the pattern on tiles that were presented to them.  They didn't get a new tile until they had a good match.  Turkey Swap is another game that is quite a challenge.  Many students took 200 or 300 moves to complete the task, while others actually were in the 80s and 90s!  Try it and see how many tries it takes you!

3rd and 4th grade technology students have been learning about the tools in Microsoft Word as they create a poem  entitled, "If I Were A Thanksgiving Turkey".  Information includes how they would smell, taste, what they would be stuffed with, what they would hear...well, you get the idea.  We have some pretty creative poets! Learning tips and tricks about page borders, inserting graphics, and editing font style, size and color are the techie bonuses of this project!  Here's a Third Grade sample!

Students in 5th and 6th grade technology have been sharpening their blogging skills this month.  We are blogging about the Daily Life of the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag.  Students research on a Scholastic website about The First Thanksgiving and compare and contrast different aspects of the daily life of the two cultures. Here's a Fifth Grade sample:

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Type to Learn!

Beginning the 2nd semester of First Grade, students work to improve their keyboarding skills with a program called TTL4.  (Type to Learn).  TTL4 has 36 lessons, 5 typing games with each lesson, and 7 keyboarding assessments.

Review of previously learned keys, demonstration of new keys, practice exercises and assessment, with continuous reinforcement of home row positioning, is a cycle followed throughout all of the 36 lessons.  There is emphasis on words per minute speed as well as accuracy.

What students like most about TTL4 is that it's in the form of a game with adventure, information, and lots of specialized activities.

As a teacher, I have access to view the work of each student, and am able to personalize their individual plan and requirements for advancement.  According to the accuracy and speed achieved in a lesson, goals for upcoming lessons are adjusted accordingly.

Students are exposed to lessons that incorporate real-world typing content, as well as cross-curricular.  Examples include historical documents, literature passage, and original writing tasks.

I asked the 2nd grade students what their favorite game was.  It was a split between Drone Control and Dig This.

Drone Control Activity
Drone Control ActivityThis is a timed typing game focusing on speed as well as accuracy. Students type the displayed text as quickly as possible to command a drone to move through dangerous terrain. They must reach their destination before time runs out.
The amount of content provided to the student in this game depends on their individual WPM goal. Students must type fast enough to meet their WPM goal in the time allotted in order to successfully reach their destination. WPM and accuracy are always recorded.

Dig This ActivityDig This ActivityThis typing game focuses on accuracy and typing to a beat to encourage a smooth typing cadence. Students type the text displayed in order to break the ice or stones and reveal what's hidden beneath. The metronome beat for cadence can be turned on or off by the teacher in settings, as well as by the student in the game itself. (

Students in grades 1-6 work in TTL4 quite often in technology, as well as trying our hands at other online keyboard activities.  Keyboarding is a skill that everyone needs in their lives.  These students are off to a good start!
One of the fun games on TTL4

Practicing Home Row Keys

Both WPM and Accuracy are emphasized

Look at that beautiful home row position!

It's a whole row of spectacular home row positions!

Monday, October 13, 2014

There's a Spider on the Floor!

Today it was all about spiders in Kindergarten and First Grade!  The traditional song, "There's a Spider on the Floor" gave us an opportunity to not only sing the song, but also act it out!  That spider was EVERYWHERE!  On the floor, on our toes, on our backs....and with each verse, the students quickly recognized that we were rhyming too!  We had fun creating NEW places for that spider to land, and completed those new verses with more rhyming words to match!  Students took home their little spiders, with excitement brewing to teach their family at home this fun song and activity.  Perhaps we will hear about some new verses that they create at home in our next music class!
There's a spider on my toe!.....and he's wiggling his nose!

a spider on my knee!

on my belly...eating peanut butter and jelly!!!

...on my neck!  

...on my hair...I think he's dancing way up there!

There's even a spider on my BACK!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Pumpkin Time!

October is a fun month in music class!  We get to sing lots of pumpkin songs!  One of our all-time favorites is Pass The Pumpkin.  Through the years, we've added various instrumentation to the song, played the passing game, and generally had great fun with it! 
The student pointer
Kindergarten and First Graders are using the song this year to reinforce quarter and eight note patterns.  Students take turns using the display on the SmartBoard as a pointing page while we sing.  This is a quick way for me to assess each student in their tracking skills.  They are also trying their hand at a simple bourdon on the xylophone to accompany the singing game.  Again, a quick assessment of steady beat and mallet proficiency.
While we sing the song, we play the passing game and rotate around to each of the instruments as well as a chance to be the "pointing person."
This week, we've added xylophone, rainstick, and gong to the piece.  Perhaps we will come up with some new instrument choices next week!

We have LOTS of choices for the pumpkin to use in our passing game!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Edmodo Excitement

This year 3rd and 4th graders are experiencing Edmodo for the first time.  Many of them had heard about Edmodo from older siblings, and were anxious to get started!  
We have had fun creating our profiles on Edmodo and have dived into a few assignments.  
Fourth grade has been reviewing Microsoft Word and the use of the editing tools.  They have used MS Word before, but not some of the specific tools that we are learning about this year.  We are about to being a unit about online safety.  
Third graders have just recently logged into Edmodo.  They are getting used to remembering their login names and passwords and have also had fun creating their profiles.  Third grade is beginning an assignment dealing with online safety using a resource by PBS kids, Webonauts!    

This is an original PBS KIDS GO! game that explores what it means to be a good internet citizen.  It's very engaging for the students.  They can even continue their online journey on their home computer if they wish this weekend.  

Each student took home a letter of explanation to their parents as well as a special code that will enable their parents to log into their child's Edmodo page.  One of the cool things about Edmodo is the ability for both students and teachers to communicate and complete assignments online during times outside of the school day.  I'm hoping that parents will frequently check in on their child's page!

Edmodo is designed to get students excited about learning in a familiar environment.  We can continue classroom discussions online.  Learning is personalized and engaging for students.  Special apps help teachers to supplement what is learned in class.  Edmodo also makes it simple to track student progress. Grades and badges can be assigned or awarded.  Through student discussion posts, understanding can be clarified, and frustration or confusion can be minimized.

Edmodo and Online Safety!

Last year Grades 4-5 and 6 were introduced to a new learning tool called Edmodo. Edmodo is a free social learning platform that provides a safe way for students and teachers to connect and collaborate.   Students have continued to use Edmodo this year for assignments.  We have done a review of the tools used in Microsoft Word.  Students learned some shortcuts used in formatting documents.

We are currently exploring internet safety through the USA-SOS site.  Students are given a Scavenger Hunt to complete by reading and listening to a variety of media that is provided.  They are learning about netiquette, how to avoid viruses on a computer, cyberbullying, cookies, and how to choose a safe, secure password. 
Parents are able to access their child's Edmodo account and view grades and assignments through their parent account.  If you have not already done so, please take the time to create an account.  Ask your child what they are doing in class.  One of the cool things about Edmodo is that students can do their assignments at home or at the library.  I am also able to see their work when I log in at home.  
Check it out!  It's COOL!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Chalk it up!

The Kindergarteners are just learning about quarter notes (walking notes) and eighth notes (running notes) in their ABC Music and Me curriculum.  First graders are reviewing some basic notation and musical symbols in their music classes.  We all took advantage of the gorgeous weather today, and went outside with our chalk and practiced our notating!!  The kids thought this was a great idea, although a bit hot if we were in the sun very long!  Mrs. Lyon enjoyed the extra bit of sunshine too!  Here are some examples of our budding musicians' artwork!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Happy Birthday Star-Spangled Banner

In music classes we have been talking a lot about the Star-Spangled Banner this year.  September 14 was the 200th anniversary of Francis Scott Key writing of the poem, "In Defense of Ft. McHenry" which later became known to us as our national anthem, the Star-Spangled Banner.

Mary Pickersgill was known as one of the top flag makers in Baltimore.  Major George Armistead wanted something flying over the garrison guarding Baltimore's waterfront that would be seen by the British, even from a distance.  Mary was commissioned to make the flag...30 by 42 required 300 yards of wool, and had 2-foot wide stripes as well as 15 stripes and stars.  She had to work on the flag in a nearby brewry as her own home wasn't even large enough.  Taking 6 weeks to sew with the help of about 5 other women, Mary Pickersgill completed the flag and was paid $405.90 for her work.  The main flag weighed about 50 pounds (23 kg), and it took 11 men to raise it onto a 90-foot (27-meter) flagpole.  There was also a smaller storm version that flew during the battle, costing $168.54.
In addition to reviewing proper etiquette while singing the Star-Spangled Banner, students have done a variety of activities.  Younger students colored flags (not an easy task for a kindergartener!), noting the order of the colors of the stripes on the flag.  

Students also learned about length, width, and perimeter as we measured the actual size of the flag!
We celebrated the 200th Anniversary as a school body Monday morning.  We of course sang the Star-Spangled Banner and then measured the size in the gym.  Then we wanted to see if the entire student body would fit inside of the area of the flag!  Well, we EASILY fit the entire elementary students and teachers inside the flag (somewhere around 300) and had lots of room to spare!  Students agreed that the junior high and high school would probably have easily fit in too!  Here we are singing the Star-Spangled Banner together.  The yellow rope represents the perimeter of the flag.

Friday, August 29, 2014

It's A Star-Spangled Year!

I haven't posted a blog for quite awhile...since July!  It was a very busy summer for me, not home very much!  I will try to be more consistent now that we are back in the swing of the school year!  We have complete 2 weeks of school already!  Students and teachers are back into school routines, and time is already flying!  

This is our Star-Spangled Year!  Know why?  This year is the 200th anniversary of the writing of the lyrics of our Star-Spangled Banner by Francis Scott Key! There is a very interesting story that goes with the adventure that Francis Scott Key had while writing these lyrics!  Ask your children about it!   To learn more details about the battle at Ft. McHenry and how Francis Scott Key came to be there to witness it, go HERE.
Adding to our local celebration will be a Star-Spangled performance by the 2nd and 3rd graders on October 21.  We are already learning some of the selections we will sing.  One of our favorites already is a song entitled, "Mount Rushmore" by Karl Hitzemann.  It's a beautiful song.  Many of the students have been to visit Mount Rushmore, so this song means a lot!  We have also explored how Mount Rushmore was made, how big it is, and what each of the presidents represented has done for our country.  They will be singing traditional patriotic songs as well as some new, star-spangled melodies.
We have been focusing on our breathing while singing.  These students are practicing their breathing while lying down.  Students are able to see the rise and fall of their diaphragms as they inhale and exhale.  We can tell it makes a difference in our singing when we think about these things!  We talk about phrasing and breathing as we sing our songs.
Kindergarten and first graders have been singing to the book "Brown Bear Brown Bear" by Eric Carle.  We put our own spin on the book by using the melody we sang and using our own unique animals!  
I have a collection of zoopal plates which are, unfortunately, not sold any more.  I think that music teachers bought all of the inventory!  These work well for reviewing not only our song, but colors, animals, and syllables (rhythm) in language. This is also a good way for me to assess their singing voices as we begin our year. Even if you can't buy zoopals, you can still play online games with them!  The kids love these games too!  They have been exploring them in technology class!  You can find them here!

Monday, July 21, 2014

All I Do Is Farm!

Peterson Farm Bros. has a new parody this summer, "All I Do Is Farm".  I always look forward to their blogs and new musical creations!  The kids love their videos as well, and can relate to much of what they sing about since we are a strong farming community!  Here's their blogpost and new video.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Now The Green Blade Riseth

Now the green blade riseth, from the buried grain,
Wheat that in the dark earth many days has lain;
Love lives again, that with the dead has been:

Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green.
In the grave they laid Him, Love who had been slain,
Thinking that He never would awake again,
Laid in the earth like grain that sleeps unseen:

Forth He came at Easter, like the risen grain,
Jesus who for three days in the grave had lain;
Quick from the dead my risen Lord is seen:

When our hearts are wintry, grieving, or in pain,
Jesus' touch can call us back to live again,
Fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been:

We sang this song tonight at Mass. Several things touched my heart as we sang.....
"Wheat that in the dark earth many days has lain:"......When I married my farmer husband almost 20 years ago, I didn't even know that there was winter wheat as well as spring wheat! The winter wheat is planted in the fall, sprouts, and then is dormant until the sunshine and rains in the spring. I've always marveled at the dying and rising of the wheat seed. The faith of the farmer is not to be downplayed in this scenario. Seed, fertilizer, time, are all poured into this labor of planting a seed which will soon die, with no sign of life for many months after. Early spring comes, the ground starts to thaw, and then miraculously, the green rows start to appear in the field! And it is wheat! Of course, this is only another beginning for this leap of faith for the farmer. Rainfall, storms, diseases, are all part of the story yet to come. Yet, hope is found in the spring, when that green blade is seen! And so it is with our Jesus..."laid in the earth like grain that sleeps unseen." But a marked difference as well. With Jesus' Resurrection, there is no doubt that Jesus is alive, and remains so to this storm or drought can change that fact!
"When our hearts are wintry, grieving, or in pain,"....Our area of the state is expecting snow late tonight and tomorrow! Yes, TOMORROW, Mother's Day, May 11!! Our hearts yearning for springtime will once again be wintry! There are many who are also grieving the loss of ones they love. I know many are in physical or emotional pain. The promise we have as Christians, however, is that these times of desolation, sorrow, or pain, are the EXACT times that Jesus calls to us.LIVE again! The fields of our heart are made lush with joy, freedom, love, and peace! Jesus, the Shepherd whose voice we KNOW, brings us to the fullness of life that he has waiting for us. All we need do is listen.

Friday, April 25, 2014


How would you describe God?  Amazing! Unstoppable!  All-powerful!  Unchangeable!  Uncontainable!  Holy! All-Knowing!  Forgiving!  Life-Giving!  There's not a single word to proclaim the total awesomeness of our God!  
As I contemplate the gift of the Resurrection, it is both humbling and amazing to me the Love that God has for all of us, that He sent his Son to redeem us!  As I think about the apostles when Jesus appeared to them after His, their hearts must have been so totally overwhelmed with thanksgiving, love, praise!  The total joy they  must have felt!

This song by Chris Tomlin, "Indescribable", is a beautiful song of praise to our God...who is my Everything!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

It's a Slow Fade...

...when black and white turn to grey
...when you give yourself away
...when thoughts invade, choices made
...when you give yourself away
...when flatter leads to compromise
...when empty words and promises lead broken hearts away
...a price will be paid.

Written by Mark Hall and performed by Casting Crowns, Slow Fade makes the point that people, families do not "crumble in a day."  It's erosion over time of our core values that makes our foundation crumble.  Those "little" things that we do that "don't really matter." They matter.
Choices.  We all have choices...every hour of every day.  It DOES matter what we put into our minds.  Whether it's the television we watch, the music we listen to, or the sites we visit on the internet - it matters.

"The journey from your mind to your hands
Is shorter than you're thinking
Be careful if you think you stand
You just might be sinking."

Just as we make choices, so Jesus, too, made choices throughout His life.  He ultimately chose death on a cross.  HE CHOSE.  Each event of His life was a choice.  Even His birth into this world was a choice by His Mother Mary!
Little choices, big choices...they all matter.  They all form who we are.  What choices have I made today? this week?  this year?  Do they reflect who I want to be? Who God wants me to be?  Are they shaping me into the person I want my children and grandchildren to remember after I am gone from this earth?  Do my choices make me a better partner in marriage?  Do my choices allow me to contribute to the well being of the community around me?
As we go through the day let's be aware of the choices before us...big or small.  What are they the wisest choices for your life?