Thursday, October 16, 2014

Participating in another Giveaway!

Supporting a fellow TPT seller with this giveaway!  Read below!  I'm giving away Lesson 1 of S-Cubed!

Last week my TPT store reached 500 followers.  To celebrate many TPT store owners donated items to my giveaway celebration.  There are four giveaways: three K-2 and one 3-5.  Check out all the great goodies below and use the Rafflecopters to enter all the giveaways!

The Following TPT stores donated to this giveaway:

The Following TPT stores donated to this giveaway:

The Following TPT stores donated to this giveaway:

The Following TPT stores donated to this giveaway:

Let's be honest as you enter these giveaways.  You actually need to already be a follower or become a new follower for each category.  Good Luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway a Rafflecopter giveaway a Rafflecopter giveaway a Rafflecopter giveaway

That's all I've got!  I'll see you around the blogging world!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

S-Cubed Sight Singing Program Reaches Milestone on TPT!

Please go "like" and "comment" on the post about the recent TPT milestone for the S-Cubed Sight Singing Program for Middle School Beginners!  Share with your peers and district supervisors.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Faiz- The Boy from Afghanistan-Spiritual renewal...and Classroom Management

My specialty is sight singing. I teach it to my beginning middle school students from day 1 of sixth grade. By eighth grade, they are fluent and competent at a level higher than my own when I was a freshman in college. Scheduling limitations cause it to be impossible for me to have a beginners choir for 8th grade.

Inevitably, in a school of 1600 students, an issue will arise in which I must consider bending the rule that beginners can't join the advanced chorus during their 8th grade year. I've tried it. It doesn't work most of the time. They get frustrated. They never catch up, and they leave without the solid understanding of the material. It's simply too much for them to absorb.

When I'm asked to consider bending that rule by counselors, administrators or parents, I always say this: "Do you speak fluent French"? The answer is always "No!". So, then I say, "Joining chorus in 8th grade is like dropping off a 13 year old in France without parents and with no money and being told, 'Figure it out!' How do you think that will make him feel?"

The crystallizes it for everyone involved and leads to a productive conversation in which the parent, administrator and child either check in or check out. If they check in, the parent is on board to support the child in this major commitment of catching up. If they check out, fortunately, I share with them that our feeder high school has a beginning chorus program as well as an advanced one and their child can start there.

So, in walks Faiz who just moved to the USA from Afghanistan with his family of 7. This eager 14 year old boy with a changed voice walks into my room during the 4th week of school and he says in broken English, "I want to join chorus. I want to be a rapper." can imagine the thoughts that ran through my head. I thought to myself, "There isn't a snowballs chance in..." Well, you know the rest. I promptly created obstacles. "I need to talk to your mother and you at the same time before I'll even consider it. ...And we don't rap in here. Sorry. It's just not my thing." With his bright eyes, he said, "Ok". Well, long story short, it took it about 4 failed attempts (misunderstandings due to his poor English), but he got his mother, dressed in traditional Muslim clothing, into my room during my planning period.

I thought...Wow.  He really wants to do this.

His mother speaks no English at all. He told me that she understands it, but she cannot speak. So, I rattled off the difficulties he would face if I let him join 5 weeks into his 8th grade year.  I shared that he would be in a class of 85 children who were fluent sight singers and that I would not be able to help him or slow down for him. I told him that if he failed the quizzes, he would need to accept the grade.

He didn't flinch. He translated for his mother. She said something to him. He translated, "She says that she knows I really want to do this."

So, with 300 students in my program...and knowing that he would likely fall between the cracks....I relented and let him join. 

One of my top students volunteered to meet him each morning to tutor him. I thought to myself..."He'll never show up". ...and with each passing day for three weeks, he did.

He struggles. He isn't caught up...I mean...You can't possibly catch up on this much material and so many skills that are built with steady, daily work in just three weeks....but this child keeps coming and keeps working. It's amazing and it's inspirational. ...and he still wants to be a rapper. I told him that Atlanta is a great place for it. I may just have to start trying to help him connect some of those dots.

Here is this child...this child who has probably seen more horrors than I could ever see in my lifetime. He is 13. The US invaded Afghanistan 13 years ago. He has only known that life.

...Here is this child who is so excited to be in this country....the same way my ancestors were excited to be here...they wanted a new life free of something that they felt restricted them in the country from which they came....This young 13 year old who is pushing to better himself and take advantage of all of the opportunities that he has here.

Well...all I can say is that is renews me.

Faiz renews my spirit, and his story will help me continue to hold all of my students accountable. 

There are no excuses. If you want it, you will find a way. That's all.  Less talk. More do. ...and when you don't "do", consequences occurs.  By not implementing them, we are not doing our students a favor.  In fact, we are doing the opposite.

Should we encourage? Yes. Should be try positive solutions? Of course. They are middle school children! It's our job to try many types of solutions when we try to awaken them. But ultimately, consequences have to occur when our students, regardless of circumstance, don't meet a clearly stated criteria.

We cannot be afraid to state it, expect that they will meet it and follow through when they don't.

It's up to us.

 Check out my blog!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Freebie for Publicity Part 2

Freebie for Publicity Part TWO! The first “Freebie for Free Publicity” was very successful. Lots of new folks heard about S-Cubed with your help. So, I’ve decided to do it again. The rules are a little bit different this time, so read carefully. For the new folks….here are the rules: I need your help spreading the word about S-Cubed. I don’t advertise in a traditional way. It’s all “word of mouth” and social media. To help spread the word, I am offering a “Freebie for Free Publicity Exchange-Part 2”.

Here is how it works:

Step One: You must have purchased and used at least one S-Cubed lesson in your classroom with success to be eligible for this offer.

Step Two: You share some of the links I’ve listed below on Facebook group pages. Groups such as I’m a Choir Director.   Direct link and Music Teachers.  Direct Link or some other large Facebook Group of Music Teachers.

Step Three: Share the link on one state website that includes at least 100 middle school music teachers from your city or state who can benefit from this offering. This can be posted on any social media (State Website, or Facebook Groups). The point is to use a strong social media platform that can help deliver the news about S-Cubed to large numbers of folks who can benefit from the materials.

It must be a MAIN PAGE link if you are using Facebook (not on the side in a small box that very few folks actually ready). Make sure to include a personal message on the links you provide about how the product has helped you or what you like about the offering. Be specific.

 To make it easy to share, here are some direct links from my product descriptions, YouTube videos and blog that might be helpful to share with your peers.

Just copy and paste the link and share your personal endorsement.

This is a link to my blog with a full description of what the program is all about.

Link to my YouTube Description:

Step Four: To say thank you for your support in this publicity endeavor, I’d like to email you a free product.

 a) Shoot me an email at

 b) Please include the link or links you’ve shared with your peers about S-Cubed, and I’ll send you this product if they meet the criteria above.

 c) In return, you will get a 5 lesson bundle of your choice. If you are in need of the final seven lesson bundle, you will get that! In your email that includes your links, please specifically tell me which bundle you want (Bundle #1, Bundle #2, Bundle #3, Bundle #4, Bundle #5). If you go far and above the criteria listed above, you may just get the full bundle free. I will have to evaluate the links before I can make the final decision, but at a minimum, you will get a 5 lesson bundle for free! The deadline for this offer is October 8, 2014. Many of you have purchased the first small bundle, and this is a chance to get some more of the program free of charge in exchange for your help in spreading the word. Make sure to include the links in your email to me!

• • Check out my blog!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Some more classroom management ideas! ..and a little guidance on Forbidden Pattern!

Many teachers say "Respect me.  I am the adult."  Well...I don't think it works that way.  Respect is a circle.  We get what we give.  We must always treat children with 100% respect.  If we do, we are in a position of power at all times when we need to make our point and change a behavior, and the children will be so willing and ready to work FOR us rather than AGAINST us.

Most of my middle school chorus students start with me in 6th grade.  This year, I have about 120 new, eager singers in 6th grade.  Most stay with me through 8th grade.

The first year they are with me is critical for so many reasons.  Of course, I am teaching them music literacy and singing technique, but I am, more importantly, teaching them what their job is in chorus class.  What are the daily rituals?  How do I get an "A"?  What are the expectations after hours?

6th graders are coming to us from elementary school where they often had music for only once or twice per week.  The expectations regarding commitment, work ethic and grading are completely different.  We have to teach it all to them carefully, one step at a time, without yelling or screaming and with as much positive recognition of the correct behaviors as possible.  

When my sixth graders leave me each day, I am definitely more exhausted than when the 8th graders leave because I want to make sure that I am on top of everything regarding daily rituals.  Doing so will serve me well for two more years!

Here are some examples:

Example #1:  I don't allow children to come into my room, put their books down and then leave to go to the bathroom.  They have to do it on their way to my class.  I go over the rule during the beginning of the year. 

Inevitably, a child will put this rule to the test.  When we are put to the test on one of our important daily rituals, we must remember this: Words are nothing.  Follow through is everything.  You can say something a million times ("You know my rule!  You have to go between classes!"), but if you don't actually hold them to this rule, it won't matter.   I always say "no" when someone tries to get me to bend this rule.  Other children are watching. 

Obviously, in regards to the restroom usage, there are emergencies, and we have to be smart enough and compassionate enough to know the difference.  Middle School children must know that we care about them and that we will listen to them.  They need structure.  They need follow-through and strength from us.  In fact, they thrive on it.  As we get more experienced, it becomes clearer to us some of the ways children can try to take advantage of us.  We cannot allow it.  When they know that we are serious about our rules and procedures, and that there are swift, fair consequences for behaviors, almost all middle school children respond...regardless of their economic background or any other factor.  

Example #2:  You have a child who isn't participating.  She is looking right at you and defiantly not participating.  

Never give her an "audience".  In other words, don't call her name out loud and insist that she fixes the behavior now or else!  She would LOVE for you to do that, and she will have a great time not giving 100% while the children watch her "perform".  You will lose!  All you will get is high blood pressure and a few new wrinkles.  

Do silent things.  Use your eyes and quiet physical gestures that indicate she needs to sit up and sing. You could also use proximity.  Go close to her and tell her quietly that she needs to participate. When she disrespectfully rolls her eyes at you, pull a "Frozen" and "Let it go!"   :)
Then, right before the end of class, go very close to her and ask her to stay after.

When you talk to her after class, start with this:  "Have I ever disrespected you?"  The answer should be "No".  

If the answer is yes, then you have some introspection to do.  Be prepared to listen and learn. Apologize if needed while you work to help the child understand the importance of working hard in your class and giving it her all.

Once the child says "No", you need to refer to the behavior (rolling of the eyes, or whatever it was) and tell her this is not respectful.  You must say, "I've never disrespected you, and I don't deserve to be treated the way you treated me.  Do I?"  If you've treated the child with respect previously, you will absolutely have her in the palm of your hands...that is one of the most important reasons that we must always treat our children with 100% respect. 

I've taught for 23 years in 3 states in varied economic situations, and my experience is that ALL of them understand this sort of leadership and respond in the best possible way.  

Forbidden Pattern from S-Cubed Sight Singing Program...a classroom management suggestion:  

In my Sight Singing game, Forbidden Pattern, one of the rules is:  In order for the class to win a point, there must be absolute silence when the teacher sings the forbidden pattern.    If you don't stick to that rule, the game will turn into a discipline nightmare for you...especially with the younger singers.  

When enforcing the rules, we don't have to be mean.  We don't have to yell.  Doing so will ruin the energy of the game.  So, when they test us on that rule, we must find ways to be clever or funny or silly while still driving home the point that they must be silent to win the point.  For example, a common thing that the kids want to do when the forbidden pattern is sung is to "Sh" each other or do some sort of physical gesture to remind people not to sing.  This is not allowed.  We want our students to be focused enough to simply be quiet in that moment.  I usually call the point "even" when they warn each other in some one gets a point.   I do it in as "light-hearted" a way as possible, and I keep the pacing of the game going as fast as possible.  

I've spend hundreds of hours recording and uploading the teaching videos for S-Cubed.  There are so many classroom management ideas in those videos that can help you as you teach.   There are so many that I cannot possibly write them down in a blog entry or in a power point.   I urge you to watch those videos anytime you struggle with discipline or pacing of the game.  Nothing that I do in those videos is by accident.  The pacing is fast, ridiculous and  the over-acting and the humor are all on purpose!   As you play the game more and more over the years, you will get better and better at the intricacies of it, and you will find that it helps your relationships with the children and also makes you a better classroom manager!

I hope the program is working for you!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Surviving Back to School Night

Everyone is back in school!  Classroom processes have been taught and here we go!

Now...what about Back to School night?  Parents?!

I've heard my peers call them "Helicopter Parents".   I absolutely do not have the same view!

I teach chorus to over 300 children every single day, five days per week.   It would be impossible without the parents.  

What do they want?  How do we cope with a barrage of emails and contacts from parents?  How do we not get cornered at Back to School Night?

1)  Be pro-active!  They simply want information.  I create an email distribution list as soon as school starts, and I send emails about upcoming events, classroom expectations, due dates, etc.  You could refer them to your website.  You could use  Whatever works best for you, but if you give them information, they are grateful and less-stressed!  Therefore, they are less likely fill your inbox with questions or corner you at Back to School Night!
You can see a sample below.  This has worked wonders for me!

2)  Be empathetic!  I teach middle school.  The transition to 6th grade is huge.  Not only are the students stressed, but so are the parents!  Their children are growing up, and if this is their first child in middle school, they don't really know what to expect.  

3)  Be open to receiving help!  On my syllabus, I have a section requesting volunteers for specific tasks.  The more specific the tasks are, the more likely you are to receive volunteers.  I put my parents to work before the first week of school...sometimes sooner! Using parent volunteers builds trust in the community...and again...that relaxes them, keeps your inbox less full and allows you to leave before 9 PM on Back to School Night!
Here is a screenshot of the parent volunteer sheet on my syllabus.

Parents are your greatest allies.  Forge professional relationships with them from Day 1.  It helps you, and most importantly, it helps the children!

Music Teachers!  I am having a special 48 hour sale on the Complete S-Cubed Middle School Sight Singing Bundle starting September 24th!

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