Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Why I Teach Music

I know many music teachers are in the trenches, feeling overwhelmed with the demands of the profession.  Sometimes it's nice to take a moment, breath, and remember exactly why we were drawn to this profession.  I am teaming up with some amazing music education bloggers this week on a series called #whyiteachmusic.  We're all sharing why we love what we do and hosting a giveaway as well, because, who doesn't like free stuff?
I can tell you with all honesty, I did not choose teaching.  It chose me.  I always loved working with children, but I also loved music.  I loved playing, practicing, and performing on my flute.  My undergraduate degree was in flute performance.  My senior year, I took a class called Early Childhood Music.  All my friends took the class their junior year and every one of them loved it.  "Go sing with the babies!"  "It's the best class ever!"  So I enrolled in the class to fulfill the final 3 credit of my degree.  It changed my life forever.

In that one little class, I learned that every child is musical.  Every child has an aptitude for music. There isn't a person alive without the capacity to learn music.  I learned that every child can sing, chant, move, and play, but it was up to me find that access point in the child and move them forward. What I learned in that early childhood music class never left me.  It was such a powerful experience that instead of going to graduate school for flute performance, I went to school to get my teacher certification.

Twenty-one years later, I'm still using everything I learned in that class each and every day.  Every child that enters my room has the potential to learn music.  I simply have to find their access point.  
I love finding that one thing a child loves musically, and helping them to grow and see themselves as musicians.  The best thing is that I get to champion children who may be lost in the shuffle.  The child who struggles in the classroom is the best drummer in my class.  The child who is the outlier in her classroom shines as a singer in my class.  The disabled child who is non-verbal hums along to every tune in my class.  Every child has music aptitude.  Every child has music in them and I get to bear witness to that development each and every day.  Why I teach music?  Because it chose me and I cannot do anything else.

So want to win some amazing prices?  Enter our giveaway!  Here's what you need to do:  
  • Comment on my blog post!
  • Share your inspiration on social media using #whyiteachmusic
  • Share my blog post with your friends on social media so they can enter too!
  • Share every day until Monday, November 21st
Every blogger is giving away a different prize.  You can win a copy of my Differentiated Recorder Bundle!  It's a fantastic resource to help every student in your room!

Make sure to enter the giveaway below!  And leave me a comment!  Good luck!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Workarounds for Microsoft Office: Using PowerPoint in Dropbox

Workarounds for Microsoft Office: Using PowerPoint in Dropbox - play fun interactive PowerPoint games using Office Online!
Have you ever purchased a game on Teachers Pay Teachers that uses PowerPoint?  You're so excited to play it with your students!  You download the game, enter in slide view but something about the game doesn't seem right.  Thought there was supposed to be sound?  Or animation?  Why isn't it working?
That happened to me with one of MY OWN games!  I was so excited to show my students the first interactive PowerPoint game I made for them.  I created the game at home on my computer, but when I got to school none of the sounds worked!  I almost cried!  The hours of work I put into creating the game felt wasted.
But I've learned that where there's a will, there's a way...
The game was created using Office 2011.  My school computer runs Office 2003.  Older versions of Office don't like the younger, newer versions.  They don't recognize many of the functions of the newer versions.  So what's the workaround?
1.  Open a Dropbox account.  (If you already have a Dropbox account, go to step #2) 
Dropbox is free online storage system.  With your account, you receive 2 GB free of storage.  You can purchase additional storage if necessary.  Once you've created your account, you will be prompted to download Dropbox onto your computer.  You don't have to do this, but I HIGHLY RECOMMEND it.  I run Dropbox on both my home computer and school computer.  It allows me to share files from home to school without the use of the flash drive.  No more worrying about losing or forgetting a flash drive ever again!  
2.  Once you've logged in, you'll see this screen.  You can simply drag and drop files into your Dropbox account.  Save the PowerPoint game you want to use to your Dropbox folder.

3.  Now find the PowerPoint file you want to open.  Click on it ONCE.  If you double-click, it will open using whatever version of PowerPoint is on your computer.  ONE click is all you need.

4.  Now that you've clicked once, you'll see the file appear in the screen like this.  You're almost done!

5.  Look in the upper right hand corner.  See where it says open?  Click on it, then click on Microsoft PowerPoint Online.  Dropbox and Office have partnered so that you can use their online version through Dropbox.  I know, amazing, right?

6.  We're almost done!  Click on View and select Slide Show!  Your PowerPoint should enter into Slideshow view and you should be set unless...

7.  Depending on your browser, you may have one final hurdle.  Some browsers see the SlideShow as a Pop-Up.  I use Chrome, which automatically blocks Pop-Ups in its browser.   Other browsers will ask permission for the Pop-Ups.  You need to allow the Pop-Up.  If you're in Chrome, go to the menu at the top, click on Chrome, Preferences, Settings, Content Settings, Pop-Ups, and Manage Exceptions.  Copy and paste the URL of the slideshow into the box under Hostname pattern.  Click Done, then go back the PowerPoint page.  You should be good to play!  (If this all seems to complicated, simply try another browser like Firefox!)

Please note - you must always access the files from Dropbox via the web, instead of your computer for this to work!  Hope this helps you!  Let me know one of your favorite tech workarounds!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Music Education Blog Carnival: November 2016

Read the latest post on the Music Education Blog Carnival!  Seven great post about music education!

I am so excited to be the host of the Music Education Blog Carnival this month!  For those who may not know, the Music Education Blog Carnival is a monthly post hosted by different music education bloggers.  Each blogger selects a few music posts that were recently written and why they selected it.  I loved reaching all of the blog posts by so many talented musicians and educators.  Here are some of my favorites from October!  Enjoy!

I love this blog post by Jennifer Foxx at Music Educator Resources.  Her post, The Power of Praise in Student Practice, is such a wonderful reminder of the awesome responsibility we hold as educators.  A kind word of praise reaps rewards 10-fold over a discouraging word.  Whether we're working on-on-one in a private studio or with a classroom of 30 students, all children want to be praised and validated!

Literature in music education holds a special place in my heart.  I loved reading Tracy King's Books You Need in Your Music Classroom: Upper Elementary List, especially because of the connection for older students.  

Daria Marmaluk-Haijoannou's post, Sing a Song About Different Families hits close to home for me. As a single mother of an adopted child, I get lots of questions about from my students.  Are you married?  Why aren't you married?  Why does your son look different than you?  As I went through the adoption process with my own child, I became more sensitive to all the different and beautiful families within my own school.  Daria provides a beautifully simple way of validating how families can look different through story and song.  

I'm going to make a confession - I love data.  I'm a bit of a nerd that way, but here's the truth: When I assess and objectively look at what my children know (and don't know), my teaching is impacted.  Data informs my instruction and guides my decisions about lesson planning.  Aileen Miracle provides easy, step-by-step instructions on how to implement assessments and track data in her post, Data Tracking in the Music Classroom.

I love, love, love using technology in my classroom.  Know what I don't love?  Ads popping up while I am using technology like YouTube!  Jane Lee provides simple directions to make those ads disappear from your screen in her post, Block Ads in Your Classroom.

Anne Mileski's post, Tips for the Traveling Music Teacher, also hits home for me.  Confession time:  I've been teaching for 21 years and I have traveled between buildings for 17 of those years.  There are some positive aspects about being an itinerant teacher, but there are also some challenges.  Anne provides some fabulous tips for all music traveling music teachers!

And lastly, as the holidays approach, and our patience wanes, I offer my own post: Classroom Management Tips for the Music Room (that work!).   Simple, easy things you can do to engage your students and get them back on track on tough days!

Thanks so much for joining me this month on the Music Education Blog Carnival!  Want to find out more about the blog carnival?  Or how you can host one?  You can find out more on Mrs. Tanenblatt's blog!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Taking Care of Your Voice: Elementary Music Edition

I was in my tenth year of teaching.  It was late October and my I could feel my fall cold coming on.  A little scratch in my voice, a few sniffles.  Nothing that a seasoned teacher couldn't handle, right?  I did all the usual things:  I drank tea and honey, I broke out the humidifier, I got lots of sleep.  A week later, the cold passed, but my voice was gone.  Not so much as a whisper.  Nothing.  Nada.

Taking Care of Your Voice: Elementary Music Edition, Vocal health tips for the music teacher

This went on for almost six weeks.  Six weeks without a voice is a music teacher's worst nightmare.  I knew something was seriously wrong with my voice, but didn't know what was wrong.  After trying every home remedy I knew, I decided to take serious action.  I made an appointment with the Vocal Health Clinic at the University of Michigan.  It turned out to be the best thing I ever did.  I met with an ENT, speech pathologist and retired voice teacher.  The ENT scoped my throat and determined that the "cold" I had experienced was really a virus and it attacked one of my vocal cords.  I watched on camera as one vocal cord vibrated, while the other one was still.  It was fascinating and terrifying at the same time.  The good news was that with some rehab (over the course of a few months), I was able to regain full use of my voice.  I also learned some tips that have served me well throughout my career.

1.  Drink water, lots of it.
Seems so simple, right?  Yet as teachers, we know drinking water means using the restroom.  I get it.  Drink it anyways.  When I worked with the team from U of M, I was told repeatedly to drink water, and specifically, to drink water with electrolytes.  Smart water became my water of choice.  Here's the bad news - I was also told to cut the caffeine.  No coffee, no soda, no nothing.  Me without my morning coffee is a very unpleasant experience, so my compromise is one cup of coffee in the morning, followed by water the rest of the day.  It's so important to keep yourself and your voice hydrated!

2.  Keep the nasal passages moist.
I know - ewe!  Here's my confession: I have nasal spray in my purse always.  You need to keep your nasal passages moist.  Talk to any singer or vocal coach and they will tell you the same thing.  It's the same reason I run a humidifier in my bedroom all winter long.  Healthy nasal passages, healthy singer!  Spray away!
3.  Stop singing with your kids.
It sounds terrible, doesn't it?  But seriously, stop!  Sing FOR your students, not WITH them.  The reasons are simple: 1) When you sing with your children, you foster dependency.  We all know students split-second imitate while singing.  Teach your students the song, then listen to them sing.  Make corrections, then listen again.  That process fosters musical independence!  2) You create pockets of vocal rest within each class.  Your voice desperately needs those moments of rest. Take advantage of them!

4.  Stop talking over your kids.
Let's get real - we all do it.  Everyone of us has those moments of frustration where we raise our voices over our students to be heard.  Stop.  There are a many reasons why we shouldn't talk over our students, but prolonged yelling can damage your vocal cords.  Find other strategies to get your students' attention.
5.  Warm up your vocal cords.
This was my biggest "duh" moment of my vocal rehabilitation.  Your vocal cords are two tiny muscles that vibrate.  When I work out, I know I need to stretch and warm up my body before I begin strenuous exercise.  Professional singers sing vocal warm-ups before every performance.  Why wouldn't we do the same?  I start every morning with vocal warm-ups. I want to make sure my voice is ready for a full day of singing and speaking for my students.

6.  Use amplification when possible.
When I lost my voice, I did not have a teacher amplification system.  Having one wouldn't have prevented what happened to me, but I do believe it's a necessity for every music teacher.  Once my voice was rehabilitated, my family physician wrote a letter to my district requesting the system.  Now, it seems commonplace that every classroom have an amplification system.  If you don't have one, there are inexpensive systems you can purchase that plug into amps or other speaker systems.  Ask your PTA or write a DonorsChoose project!  Get yourself a system to help preserve your voice.

Do you have a tried and true vocal health tip?  Share it in the comments below!