The Best Classroom Accessory EVER!

Well, maybe not THE best, but its close!  Remember these?  Mr. Sketch markers.  I was obsessed with these as a kid and now as a music teacher, I have rediscovered how great these markers are.  I used to be a Sharpie junkie, but I have made the switch (still love my Sharpies for doodling and drawing).  But in the classroom, these are the only markers I use and here’s why….

  • SMELL YUMMY! – no nasty, chemical smells.  No kids getting “happy” off those “other” permanent markers
  • WATERCOLOR – this means no clothing or hand stains.  They wash off with a little soap and water.  
  • BOLD COLORS – they come in huge range of colors (better than Crayola’s colors) and they also have all the colors of our Boomwhackers!!!  So I can easily make charts, notation, and reading cards for our Boomwhackers without having to visit the color printer or find the right color construction paper (more printable Boomwhackers stuff to come…stay tuned!)
  • NO BLEEDING!  – these markers are even better than Crayola because they don’t bleed through anything!  Both Sharpies and Crayolas bleed through so if you’re making a chart, having kids work on something on the floor, or color coding a piece of music, these are your choice!  

I make so many charts, and visuals using ActivStudio and my Promethean board now; however, nothing beats a handmade visual when it comes to connecting with your students.  Also, I often don’t have the time to make a pretty flipchart for everything we’re doing.  So colored markers and construction paper are always a go-to for me….they should be for you too!!!

Sanford Mr. Sketch Assorted Scent Markers 12 Pack (20072)

Want to buy some Mr. Sketch smelly markers?!?  I recommend these (click the picture)….. 12 colors, $10…..a classroom investment well worth it!  

St. Patrick’s Day Composition Activity

With holidays during the year, I try to think of ways to incorporate what we’ve been studying with the coming holiday.  Next week being St. Patrick’s day, we needed some shamrocks and some luck!  My second graders and I have been working with notation in the treble clef and the C major scale (See the Lesson in 3 Parts Here: Part I Part IIPart III).  So it was natural for us to compose a song that we could play on our Boomwhacker® or Orff instruments.

Here’s a worksheet we used to compose our own songs…..
Click the picture to right-click/save your own copy of this worksheet!
This is black-and-white so that you can print/copy on GREEN paper for an awesome looking, “Sham-rockin'” Song! (couldn’t avoid the pun!)  This will allow your students to compose a 4-measure song.  When we did this today, once a student finished composing, he/she brought me their paper for review; then off to the computer to play the digital Boomwhackers® on  
Want to buy your own set of Boomwhackers?  I recommend this set to start off….

Boomwhackers® Inspiration

So I stumbled across a Music Therapy blog this evening, Rhythm for Good, by a music therapist, Kat Fulton.  She has some amazing Boomwhackers® resources – this is so exciting since we are in the middle of experimenting and exploring our new Boomwhackers®!  She arranged a Lady GaGa tune for Boomwhackers® and it is truly amazing.  Check out her post and her video on YouTube below (the video is her recording with her own custom images…also genius!)

I post this not only because its totally cool, but also….how can I use her idea and arrange some other cool tune for my students?  What tune?  Oh, the possibilities….do you have ideas?  Please share them!  Leave a comment and let me know what you think!  I’m so excited 🙂

Recorders and Harmony | "Hot Cross Buns"

A Flipchart Page from our study of this tune

My fourth graders started the year with singing harmony through rounds and partner songs. They absolutely loved it and it was a great start to a school year. However, we have not revisited harmony much since then.
This week we are reviewing this truly endearing, mildly annoying tune, “Hot Cross Buns. Although this tune is super simple,  it’s simplicity is what enables us to explore more elevated musical themes, namely harmony!
I wrote a little arrangement of “Hot Cross Buns,” consisting of 5 parts: sopranino, soprano 1, soprano 2, alto, and tenor, accompanied by a simple Orff ensemble. My school is fortunate enough to own 6 tenor recorders and 5 sopranino recorders for student use. I wash them daily in the school’s dishwasher so we can use them in different classes.

Click on the flipchart page above to download a copy of this arrangement plus a lesson plan of how I introduce this piece and the concept of harmony.  I hope you enjoy!  

Rhythm Flashcards

Teaching rhythm to young students is always fun, but can be challenging too!  Follow this link to download a copy a PowerPoint I created to enhance my  presentation, review, and reading of rhythms with my students. In focus with this slideshow are the following rhythms: Quarter Notes, Eighth Notes, and Quarter Rests. All slides are in 4/4 time and each slide is 1 measure in length (4 beats). The teaching and extension possibilities with these slides are limitless: present them digitally or physically (using a projector or on paper), present each slide and have the students echo the rhythm, have the students read each slide after a teacher count-off (12 ready go!), print these slides and arrange them to create a rhythm composition, present 4 slides and have students choose which rhythm the teacher (or another student) read, play the rhythms on rhythm or wind instruments. As you can see, the possibilities are endless….use your creativity and enjoy! 

3 Late-Night Ponderings….Your Input Appreciated!

I have a lot going through my mind tonight. A short post to get my thoughts down…these are things that I hope to explore in future posts. Comments? Ideas? All are greatly appreciated!

1. iPad 2
So the iPad 2….a major change to something that was already so cool. Adding GarageBand as a $5 app makes it a music teacher’s dream. The possibilities of how to use this are great. Before I share my ideas, what are yours?

2. Old vs. New?
Does anyone else feel like our current education system is antiquated? I don’t feel like we, as educators, are able to meet our learners where they are…can we think out of the box to make learning both more purposeful and engaging? How can we do this?

3. Composition and Creation
I read a blog post this morning by Carol Broos at Be A Techie from the March Music Education Blog Carnival. It got me thinking about allowing student to create and compose. That seems to be a current thread in music ed discussions lately….and for good reason. Our students do not want to be “spoon-fed” information only to regurgitate it later for “the test.” In order for real learning to take place, we must allow our students to create, manipulate, and explore our medium, music. A scary thing for many music teachers….why? What can do to face the scary composition monster and tackle the unknown?

iPhone Finds the Best Gas Prices

Although this has nothing to do with music or education, it is geeky enough that it has to be shared. I am on my 3rd iPhone and the more I use it the more I love it. The number of apps available for download is growing exponentially and if you have a need, you can find “an app for that.” Reading Mashable! yesterday, I saw a great article about free iPhone apps for finding the best gas prices wherever you are. I know we’re all feeling the crunch of the rising gas prices. I downloaded the app Mashable! voted as the best, Gas Buddy, and it seems pretty useful and accurate. I am looking forward to trying it out next time I get gas; that may be a week or so since I magically bought gas the day before the prices jumped last week. I will let you know how it works…..anyone else used this app? Any other apps you know of for saving money?

Materials Uploaded to

I have been researching the best ways to share my resources with you, my readers – I want you to be able to search for and download resources that meet your needs in the classroom. is a website that allows teachers to upload resources of all file types and anyone can download for free or a nominal fee, set by the author.  Yesterday I uploaded two sets of flashcards as well as the Bowmar Orchestral Library Index from my recent post.  Check out the flashcards….

Rhythm – Quarter Notes, Eighth Notes, Quarter Rest – PPT slideshow

Pitch – Solfege SOL-MI – Iconic Notation using Stars

My resources are all set to download for free.   I chose to use this service because it is easy to use, not because I want to charge for these downloads!  Continue to check back to My Profile at as I will upload more resources in the future!  

Search and Sort the Bowmar Orchestral Library

Anyone fortunate enough to have the obscure Bowmar Orchestral Library lurking in your CD collection?  I was lucky to inherit this collection, when I started teaching at my current school 7 years ago.  When I conduct a Google search on these items, I discover many things…it is expensive, it is old, and it is extensive.  My school owns all three series, which gives me 36 CDs full of the worlds most influential orchestral repertoire.  Until now, I have taken this resource for granted in my classroom.  However, I am beginning to realize what a valuable listening tool these CDs are.  If you listen to them, you realize the quality is less digital, and more analog (wink…it was originally produced on LPs); I think this is awesome since, with the advent of digital music, we’ve lost the depth and richness that was appreciated on those……gasp, records!
In order to use this collection more effectively in my classroom, I made an Excel catalog of all pieces in all 3 series.  It is not fancy, but with Excel, you can sort and filter the information to find the composer, title, or series of a piece you’re looking for – it works for the purpose we have!  Below is an embedded version of the Excel file….

You may also download a copy of this Excel file here

A Tip to Make Your Downloaded File Better:  Open in Excel, Select the first, title row, like this…

Then from the Data menu, Select Filter (Shift+Command+F on Macs)
You will see that your first, title row will have arrow buttons so you can now easily sort by either title, composer, series, or CD title.  Awesome!