Recorders Rock Play-Along Videos

Teaching recorder virtually is challenging! In fact, teaching anything virtually is difficult! Who is with me?

Truly I am thankful that the Lord gave us technology before this all happened so we have tons of digital tools in our toolbox! The middle of March was the time when my students and I were right in the middle of our recorder unit. My 3rd and 4th graders were majorly digging the recorder and we all wanted to keep going with our recorder method. So I created some play-along videos to help all my recorder players.

In the videos below, I used a wide range of tech tools…

  • Noteflight – A music notation and scoring web app that is free and paid. The free version has more than enough capability for what I need it to do. I’ve been a NoteFlight user for a better part of 10 years and the developers keep improving with increasing features and capabilities. I used NoteFlight for the notation for the videos as well as exporting the WAV file to use in GarageBand below for the melody.
  • GarageBand – A native MacOS and iOS app, GarageBand is a powerhouse for music creation and composition. I used GB to arrange the accompaniment to the recorder songs. I imported the melody from NoteFlight by adding the WAV file as the MIDI information for the melody line. I used SmartPercussion, loops, and Smart Instrument (Guitar, Strings, Piano, Keyboard, etc.) to arrange the accomapiments. I then exported the audio from GarageBand to be used in PowerPoint for the slides.
  • PowerPoint – I am sure everyone is familiar with PowerPoint. However, I used PowerPoint in a more creative way, using one slide per note in each song. Here’s a simple step-by-step of how I created the videos below using PowerPoint…
    • Create a slide with the notation as a image file. Added titles, etc.
    • Add a colored box set at 40% transparency to cover the first note.
    • Duplicate slides then move and recolor the box for each note in the song.
    • Import the audio from GarageBand on the first slide – the important part of adding audio to PowerPoint is to set the audio settings to “Play Across Slides” and “Start Automatically” and “Hide During Show” – these will all be at the top of PowerPoint in the “PLAYBACK” menu when the audio file is selected.
    • Record slideshow in the Slideshow menu at the top of PowerPoint
    • Turn off camera and microphone. Click record and advance slides to highlight each note in time with the music.
    • Export as a video – under the File menu select Export then Create a Video
    • Save it to your selected file destination

As I am typing this, I think someday a tutorial video on how to make these might be useful! It’s harder to write out than it is to just show you!

Without further delay and many more words, here are play-along videos for Recorders Rock. If you’re interested in the beginning recorder method that accompanies these videos, please visit my TeachersPayTeachers store (linked below)! During this digital learning period of time, I will keep my store set on sale for the foreseeable future to help out teachers needing resources for virtual school!


I hope you enjoy these videos. Please feel free to share with your students, embed into your school delivery methods, email links, etc. We are going to get through this and doing it together makes everything better!!!

Blessings to all the music teachers out there, to all the parents learning to help with school from home, to all the healthcare workers, life essential service providers, scientists, government leaders, as well all navigate this together! Praying the Lord by glorified through all of this! God is in control!

Chrome Music Lab

As with many schools across our nation and the globe right now, I am nearing the end of my third week of Digital Teaching and Learning. It has been a challenge to relearn how to deliver engaging and quality music lessons in a virtual format. However, I truly believe the biggest challenge is being away from my students physically. I am sure most teachers can identify with that sentiment. We are away from the people we care about and invest in with so much of our professional and even personal time.

Despite it’s challenges, I am also extremely thankful for this time. I would be remiss to not mention how my faith has been challenged and in turn strengthened as I have learned to rely on the Lord for peace, understanding, patience, and grace during these trying times. I have spent quality (and even some not-so-quality) time with my family as we have been together 24-7! Blessings in disguise for sure!

Alright, now for what you’re actually here for! Chrome Music Lab is a fantastic resource for music exploration and composition. There are various activities for exploration in pitch, rhythm, patterns, acoustics and the science of sound, physics, and even math! Today I only delved into the very first element of the lab – Song Maker.

The video below is a quick tutorial aimed geared for elementary-aged students. This would be a great resource for a virtual music lesson. However, this could also be used to introduce a music composition project in the physical music classroom. I hope this can be useful for many music teachers out there as we navigate the most unusual times. Blessings to all of you – I pray that the Lord will reach you in a very real and personal way during this period of time. May He use it for His glory and to bring many souls to Him!

Recorder Rewards Organizer Labels

Years ago, I developed my own Beginning Recorder method written specifically for my students.  It has been widely used and loved by many teachers and students, including myself and my students.  I took ideas from Recorder Karate by Music K-8 but adapted it to fit my teaching style and classroom needs.

I highly encourage you check it out.  The reviews on my Teachers Pay Teachers store speak for themselves and I am proud of the feedback I have gotten.  I am so grateful to know this method has helped so many other teachers for many years!

(disclaimer: this post contains paid affiliate links - these are the items I recommend and if you purchase via the link, I could get a small commission from the sale of that product.  Thanks!!)

Preview and Purchase Recorders Rock Beginning Recorder Method

The History of Recorders Rock….

I developed the Recorders Rock method by filling a classroom need over many years of teaching in the music classroom.  It has been a labor of love and has gone through a number of edits and revisions since I originally published it in 2012.  You can see my original blog post about it here – Beginning Recorder Method Book: Recorders Rock

I also posted about a number of great recorder resources in two other past posts…check them out below….

How I Implement Recorders Rock…

The Recorders Rock method book contains 30+ songs presented in a scaffolded progression.  The first songs only use two notes – E and G.  Gradually notes are added and the progression of songs makes learning the recorder accessible and achievable for all.
Throughout the progression of songs, certain ones are featured as color leveled songs.  The color leveled songs (ie. red level is Pease Porridge, orange level is Apple Tree, etc) are the required songs for students to test or “pass off” individually for the teacher. 
In my classroom, when it is time to “pass off” songs, I bring a small group of 3-5 students up at a time to test (one student plays at a time though while the others wait).  The rest of the class is independently practicing from their books; they are scattered around the room, and yes, it is borderline cacophony in here but we manage.  The beauty of this method is they can start working through the method book at their own pace once I have given them the foundation of the basics of playing with good tone and reading music notation.  So the students are working, practicing, and even testing at self-directed pace

My students are moving right along in the method book this spring semester.  Being at a new school this year,  I knew I needed to get my Recorder Reward system organized and prepared for when they start earning the leveled songs!

Recorders Rock is structured so the teacher can decide how the levels are rewarded.  Some ideas could include coloring in a square on a chart, adding a bead to the neck strap or case, tying a colored piece of yarn or string around the neckstrap, or getting a sticker or charm.  The possibilities are limited only by the colors.  Since the colors are in rainbow order, this reward system lends itself to many ideas I haven’t even thought of!

Recorders Rock Reward Bands

The rewards I give for the leveled songs in recorder karate are the colored rainbow loom bands that kids make those woven bracelets out of.  They’ve been super popular for years and are thankfully easy to find and super affordable.  Most come in packs of 300 or 600 for a couple dollars.  Super cost effective!   Each song corresponds to a colored band that the students can add to neck of their recorder.  I find that, despite it being so simple, these bands are highly motivating.

You can find these bands at most craft or big box stores and you can get most of the colors in a large set for $10-20 or so.  Depending on your class sizes, the quantities you can get at this price could last you years!

This set below is a great deal and comes with all the basic colors!

For the levels beyond black in this system, I ordered some specialty bands directly from

I choose the following…
Master – Silver
Expert – Gold
Virtuoso – Chameleon Color Change!
Rock Star – Rainbow Tie Dye

To keep them organized, I used a small 16-drawer tool box organizer meant for small notions or hardware.  Here is the link to the one I ordered on Amazon….

I created labels to add to each drawer for some added color coding. Below the next few pictures will be a link to download a PDF for FREE of the labels I created!  They will fit perfectly with the organizer above! 

Recorder Reward Organizer Labels – Print in Color and Cut Apart
Add labels to drawers with clear contact paper or clear packing tape
Making progress! 
Completed Recorder Reward Labels on the drawers!
All filled with bands ready for students!!

To create the same system that I am using, download a copy of these labels for FREE below!

MIOSM: Music in Our School Month Resources

Happy March and MIOSM, everyone!  This year in particular seems to be an important Music In Our Schools Month, as it is the 30th Anniversary of celebrating music education in the schools across our country.  Music In Our Schools Month is a music advocacy initiative supported by NAfME (the National Association for Music Education).  To read more about the initiative and ways you can celebrate MIOSM in your school and community, visit NAfME’s MIOSM page here.
To celebrate MIOSM here at my school, Clark Creek Elementary STEM Academy in Cherokee County, Georgia, we created our own music advocacy posters to hang in the main hallway of our school.  Here are some pictures of the installation:

I traced some large letters for “MIOSM” on butcher paper (TIP: If you’re not an all-star freehand letter drawer, no worries! Project a word document using a projector onto your board, covered with some butchers paper, and trace!!  Perfect letters everytime!).  Then I hand wrote the words “Music In Our Schools Month” on each letter, cut out, and laminated.
The student posters are a variety of colored pages from some templates I created:

  • An acrostic with the letters MUSIC that students can add their own words for the 5 letters in the word “MUSIC” (adjectives, music terms, etc.)
  • An acrostic with the letters MIOSM for the words “Music In Our Schools Month”
  • A template that has this year’s MIOSM theme:  “Music Makes Me __________” that students can design, color, and illustrate
  • A template that says “I {heart} music because….” that students can design, color, and illustrate
You are free to “steal” my ideas and make your own templates for students to color.  Or if you don’t have the time, hop over to my TeacherPayTeachers store and get the templates already done for you!! They are on sale for a limited time this weekend (3/6-3/9/15) so hurry!!   
In addition to these posters on TpT, I have teamed up with roughly 40 other music TeachersPayTeachers sellers to create 4 A-MA-ZING eBooks to celebrate Music In Our Schools book.  These eBooks are filled with teaching tips, resources, games, and other kinds of other goodies.  I am an author on the third book, Instruments of the Orchestra.  And best of all…..they’re FREE!!  Yes, 100% FREE!  You can’t not download them if they’re free.  They will be released on each of the 4 Mondays of March 2015.  Links are below as they are released!  


12 Days of Christmas {Music} Giveaways – Day 10

For the 10th day of my Christmas {Music} Giveaway, I am hosting a Raffle Giveaway!  This is my first raffle like this and I am excited to see how it works!  You can enter once for each of the types of entries below.  Two winners will be selected on Friday 12/19 at 10:00 am.  Each winner will receive a $10 TpT Gift Certificate to use on any items on TpT!  So exciting!  Remember you can enter daily to get those entries in!!  The more you enter, the more likely you are to win!!

What’s On Your Desk? and 12 Days of Christmas {Music} Giveaways!

Rachel Tanenblatt over at Music With Mrs. Tanenblatt is doing a linky party to show what is on your desk at the moment.   I must give a disclaimer before viewing – it is not a pretty sight!  I always have the “stack” on my desk – its where I pile all things I need but don’t want to deal with.  I have the “stack” at home too.  It appears to be about to topple off my desk in this pic.

Also, please note my favorite desk item during December – my USB-powered Christmas tree.  He blinks and is so cute and makes me happy all day.  My trusty dusty MacBook Pro is always up – going on 5 years, I love him and hope he keeps on trucking for many more years.  It is a District-owned computer from a time period when the music departments got to pilot Mac products in music.  If and when it dies, I will get a crappy Dell so I am coddling him to keep working as long as I can!

Also please note iPad #4 in the bottom left corner – he is out of commission and won’t get onto my classroom iPads’ iTunes account – I’ve been troubleshooting for 2 or 3 days without any enlightenment.
Thanks, Rachel, for the link-up!  Its fun to blog about something not so music-ful!

In other news, I am doing a 12 Days of Christmas {Music} Giveaway!  Make sure you follow me over on Facebook to see what is the daily giveaway!   Click on the image below to follow the link to today’s giveaway!

Recorder (and Other) Resources and Cyber Sale Link-Up

So with the TeachersPayTeachers Cyber Sale coming up, I am super excited to be sharing with you some awesome resources you can check out during this 2 day Mega-Sale at my TpT store and so many others’ awesome TpT stores.  I am linking up with Amy Abbott over at Music a la Abbott with a link party to feature my own and others’ products!

My Featured Product

My “RECORDERS ROCK” soprano recorder method book is one of the best-sellers in my store.  And for Monday December 1 and Tuesday December 2, you can get this method book for less than $7.  What a deal!  What makes my Recorders Rock Method book unique is the fact that I start students on low E – 5 fingers plus your thumb.  This forces students to start playing recorder with good air support and proper finger position – you cannot blow super hard and have sloppy fingers and play low E successfully!  Impossible!  So even though the first day or so is hard as you really just work on slow, warm air, and covering the holes correctly, once your students are making a beautiful E sound, the rest comes so much easier than the traditional “start on B” method.  Before Thanksgiving, I had 120 fifth graders playing a recorder concert of 4 tunes playing mostly in tune, in unison, and with good tone.  That was after only seven 45-minute music classes.  This method works!!!

Another cool thing with my recorder method book is the leveled testing system.  There are certain songs throughout the method book that are colored that can be used for assessment.  I have my students play the colored songs individually for me so I can assess their progress and give individual help.  Each level earns the students a colored rainbow loom band that the students can display on their recorders.  As we work through the levels, they will build a rainbow on their recorder!  So pretty!

My Recommended Music Product

I also would like to recommend a product from another music teachers’ store that I have used and adored this school year.  Sara Bibee at Music with Sara Bibee (Facebook link) produces excellent resources that are thorough, eye-appealing, and well-designed.  
At the beginning of the school year, I was designing a recorder bulletin board that could be helpful for my students while playing recorder.  I found Sara’s Recorder Fingering Charts and fell in love.  She has multiple formats with and without staff notation and big, bold, colorful note names.  I printed them and hung them on my bulletin board along with her Chevron pennant banners with instant success!  

Here are some examples of the different types of charts she has (I added her logo so there would be no copyright infringement – just buy the set!).  

She has the fingering charts in both PDF and JPEG formats.  This is great because I also paste her fingering charts into my ActivInspire flipcharts that I use with my ActivBoard (like SmartBoard but just a different brand).  Love them!  

 My Recommended Non-Music Product

I know this product is not music-related but its too cute not to recommend.  These little guys are gonna show up in some of my winter product later this year and in early 2015.  They are too cute to pass up and will add pizzazz to whatever classroom resources you’re creating.  These are the Snow Buddies Clipart Set from Krista Wallen.  Visit her entire store full of amazing clipart here.  

Tech Talk Tuesday – iPads in the Music Classroom: 5 Best Apps for Music Class

So this is my 3rd year using iPads in my music classroom.  When I moved to Clark Creek Elementary STEM Academy to open the school in 2012, I piloted a 16-iPad lab as a part of a music technology pilot.  Since Clark Creek is a STEM Academy, this was a perfect pairing of the Arts and STEM.  It was a truly trial-by-fire kind of experience and I learned a lot as I made mistakes and explored this new realm in music technology.  Unfortunately, I was super busy those first 2 years (as my children we super young – when I started at Clark Creek in 2012 my son was 5 months old and my daughter was 2), and needless to say, I had very little time to blog about the entire experience.  I regret this and I wish I could go back in time and write along the way.
One post that I have been meaning to write for these 2 (almost 3…yikes!) years is a review of my favorite apps.  Shelley Tomich over at is doing a Tech Talk Tuesday and encourages other music teachers to also blog about something techy.  Here’s my chance!  Thanks Shelley for getting me writing again!  She is also is a mom of little kids so we’re in the same busy boat…however, I think she is able to find more hours in the day than me!!  Good going, Shelley!

So here goes my top 5 Favorite iPad Apps for Music Class

Meet the Orchestra $1.99

This super cute app is well-designed, accessible, fun, and authentic.  The orchestra sounds are super high quality and the graphics and images are accurate.  There are two components to this app: Learn and Quiz.  The Learn section allows you to browse through the families and instruments of the orchestra.  Each instrument has 3-5 iconic orchestral and/or solo excerpts for your listening enjoyment as well as a thorough description of the instrument’s characteristics to read.  In the Quiz section, there are 4 different games that help students identify instruments by name, by sound, and by sight.  Love this app!  And its worth all 199 cents!

Monster Chorus   FREE!!

This funny app is appealing to the younger students I have.  I use this app when we start talking about pitch.  Its a great app for pitch exploration and to discover pitch relationships within the major scale.  Each monster-alien-thing sings a different pitch in the major scale using a neutral syllable.  What I like is that there are also a built-in songs that students following along like the game “Simon” to play familiar children’s melodies like “Twinkle Twinkle” and “Three Blind Mice” with the option to buy more songs.  Cute, simple, and fun!

StoryBots  FREE!!

This app is a lot like Monster Chorus but better.  The robots can sing using the neutral syllables “la” or “bum” but also with the solfa syllables and pitch names.  You can toggle between the syllables easily and visually it doesn’t change the robots.  I like the opportunity again for pitch exploration and making observations about pitch relationships (particularly size vs. pitch – the small robots make high sounds and the big robots make low sounds).  I also use this app when discussing pitch relationships with the younger kids.   I find that an iPad is a better beginning hands-on pitch experience over acoustic instruments because the technique challenge (mallets or bells or even boomwhackers have technique learning curves) isn’t an issue!  

Tune Train   FREE!!

This adorable app allows students to be successful composers.  The train picks up people in apartments which correlate to pitches and chords.  Each level is set up so that pitch options are limited to the predetermined chord structure of the particular level.  The built in accompaniments in a variety of styles (like pop, latin, pop rock, rock, classical) makes students feel very successful very quickly.  I also use this app when discussing pitch but towards the end of pitch units.  Once my students have a firm understanding of pitch relationships, they can make educated decisions about what notes to use and how they want their melodies to sound.  This time of year Santa and his reindeer even show up in the last level!!

Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra   FREE!!
I am amazed that this app is free.  It is so high-quality that I can’t believe you don’t have to pay for it!  I love using YPG by Britten to teach about the orchestra.  The music is great listening and this app makes the piece fun and exciting.  There are many components to this app.  You can listen to the piece enhanced with video footage of the orchestra performing and/or the score notation.  There is a listening quiz and a game to organize and arrange your own fugue.  There is a very thorough and interactive  biography of Benjamin Britten that is truly enjoyable.  I used this app almost exclusively last year to teach the orchestra.  I have a lesson plan and complete review in the works.  Stay tuned for more here….

What is best about these 5 apps is that 80% of them are FREE!!!  And only 1 costs money at $1.99.  I highly recommend all 5 of these apps.  Please contact me with any questions you have about how I teach with iPads.  I plan to blog more about my approach and technique over the next few months!  Thanks for reading and thanks again to Shelley for the linky party!

Halloween Music Class Activities

We are finally in the week of one of my favorite holidays of the year.  I do not know where my love of Halloween came from, but I do know I adore pumpkin spice, glowing jack-o-lantern faces, Reece’s peanut butter cups, and fall leaves.  I think since we live in the sultry, humid, sticky South, us Southerns truly welcome everything the accompanies the crisp Fall temps.
In the music room, I find the month of October and specifically the week of Halloween to be the perfect  opportunity for super fun listening activities and spooky games!  Here is a sampling of the ideas and activities we do in October….enjoy!

The Little Old Lady Who Wasn’t Afraid of Anything
This beloved children’s story is perfect setting for selecting and performing sound effects to enhance a story.  My littles love this book and they get soooo into adding the instrument sounds.  Click the image below to see the lesson…

Toccata and Fugue in D Minor – J.S. Bach
This is the perfect listening activity for the week of Halloween.  I also like that this version reinforces the concepts of pitch and rhythm that my students and I have been working on since the beginning of the year.

Recorder Composition in Minor
Exploring minor keys is perfect in October.  Since my older students are playing recorders right now and their first two notes are E and G, playing in E minor is the perfect teaching opportunity!

Five Little Pumpkins on Boomwhackers
One of my favorite activities is my Five Little Pumpkins lessons exploring pitch using Boomwhackers. I have recently given this product an update.  Check it out at my store by clicking the image below. 
What are some of your favorite October and Halloween activities for the music classroom?  Please share below!  I love feedback and I promise, I’ll even respond if you leave a comment!!!

Lastly, make sure you visit my TpT store through this Wednesday 10/29 – I’m having a major sale!!  20% off all Halloween and Fall-Themed Products!  

Happy 200th Birthday, Star-Spangled Banner!

This September, our National Anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner” turns 200 years old!!  I’ve been looking forward to this year for a few years and I am so excited it is here to share with my students.  Every year, we learn about our National Anthem, but this year is particularly special!  
On Sepetember 14, 1814, 200 years ago, Francis Scott Key penned the lyrics to our national anthem, following a pivotal battle in the War of 1812 against the British.  The American forces had held off the attack of the British on the Baltimore Harbor and Fort McHenry.  As the sun rose that morning, Francis Scott Key saw the American flag flying over the Fort after hours of bombardment through the night.  He was so proud to see our flag flying proudly that he was inspired to pen the lyrics to a poem which is now our National Anthem, the “Star-Spangled Banner.”
I love sharing this story with my students every year.  It instills such patriotism and pride for our country.  I hope that you will be able to share this rousing story with your students this year as well.  Below are a number of resources to use to teach the “Star-Spangled Banner” in fun, engaging, and dramatic ways for your students.

The story of the “Star-Spangled Banner” so poignantly told by Pastor Dudley Rutherford.  We always start with this video which sets the mood for talking about the “Star-Spangled Banner.”

Video with Lyrics

Denise Gagne has an excellent version of the “Star-Spangled Banner” in sing-a-long format with the lyrics onscreen with beautiful images of America.  Perfect for students to learn the lyrics to the song in an accessible, simple way.  
You can also purchase the video in mp4 format with notation, mp3 versions, and another video from TeachersPayTeachers at the link below

Here’s another TpT product that includes everything you would need to put up an awesome SSB bulletin board.  It includes directions for an activity you can do using the bulletin board.  

This is another excellent TpT resource that is worth every penny.  Sara put a lot of work into this presentation and these worksheets – so all the work is done for you.  It includes an excellent PowerPoint (or Keynote Presentation) with tons of wonderful information about the SSB as well as worksheets, word puzzles, and exit tickets.  The work is already done for you!  

Fifty Nifty United States

I know its not the “Star-Spangled Banner,” but “Fifty Nifty United States” is a patriotic tune that all kids love and get super excited about.  This is one of my TpT products that is really useful! 

Listening – “Stars and Stripes Forever” 

Your students will love this video of the United States Army Field Band performing John Phillip Sousa’s iconic patriotic march.  Perfect to end class!