Sunday, August 16, 2015

First Day Activities

The first day of school usually proves to be an exhausting day for teachers and a relatively boring day for students. Lots of guidelines, and policies, and syllabi, and not enough activity and FUN. Most of them are excited to be back in school, with all of there friends, and in a safe environment. We should capitalize on that concept!

My first day activities always include 2 key ingredients: the "Syllabus Scavenger Hunt" and an activity that gets them engaged and speaking.

The Syllabus Scavenger Hunt takes the typical policy review to a fun level. I make a list of the key information I want the students to review with me the first day of class. I create a PowerPoint presentation with each key point phrased as a question and appearing on mouse clicks. Some of the questions have follow-up questions (How many performances do we have this year? When are they?).

For each correct answer, I give the student a small piece of candy; I usually buy one of those humongous bags of candy, such as Dum-dums, Jolly Ranchers, or a mix of types of candy. I call on a different student for each answer if the question has multiple answers. There are enough questions in the activity that every student is able to earn one piece, if not two or three pieces of candy.

Yes, it is a bit like bribing them to participate, but yes, it works! They look through the syllabus to find the answers as quick as they can.

Most recently, the activity that got them engaged and speaking was an online resource: Incredibox.

In between the Scavenger Hunt and this activity, I shared with the students what I had been doing over the summer (knee surgery, my garden, my Musikgarten classes, etc.) and I wanted them to share something about their summer. Usually just asking them to share out-loud earns me eye-rolls and groaning. But I added a twist.

I demonstrated the coolness that is Incredibox, then made the stipulation that if they wanted the opportunity to interact with the program, they would have to share, out-loud, something about their summer. Hook, line, and sinker. They were so enthralled with the program that they were BEGGING to share! It really gave me the chance to get to know them, while they just wanted to "play the game."

If you are not familiar with Incredibox, go play with it now for a few minutes. I'll wait here...


Fun, right? It exposes students to the concepts of looping and phrases and effects, while seeming like a game. My 6-year-old loves to play it at home!

After the student shared a detail from their summer, they could interact in whatever method they wanted to with the program: add a character, delete/add a character, mute a character, or mute everyone except that character. And my classroom students picked up on the bonus fills very quickly; some would watch the screen carefully and then volunteer to speak when the bonus was activated :)

This activity does require a computer with internet access and a method to display the screen for the entire class to view, as well as a decent set of speakers.

What activities work for you first day? If you do try Incredibox, stop by and comment with how your students interacted with it. Have a great start to the school year!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Bringing You Up To Date

So, it has been 18 months since I last posted and A LOT has changed... let me bring you up to date.

I have resigned, after 12 years, from teaching public school music and am now a staff member at a community music school.

As the Program Manager, my staff duties include managing the programs (classes, camps, workshops, etc.) and faculty details & needs, as well as tech duties such as social media and website management. I also teach flute lessons for all ages and Musikgarten classes for newborns through 9-years old. I have been a faculty member for this music school since 2011, and I am really enjoying my new tasks and duties.

I firmly believe in music education being available to everyone. Over the past year I have worked with the Executive Director of the music school to increase financial aid assistance for families, to expand our outreach programs of low-cost and no-cost music classes & lessons for local students, and to work with faculty members to create interesting classes, camps, and workshops.

The transition has had challenges: setting up a new routine with my children, adjusting to my new schedule, and revamping our budget to fit the new income. Last year when the calendar read "August," I kept feeling that I was forgetting to do something... as any teacher can tell you, August is when we start planning for the new year of teaching. This year is not so bad, although my social media feeds are full of teacher memes ;)

Since I am a big fan of Jimmy Fallon, here is a short list of Pros and Cons of this transition:

Do you have any Pros & Cons to add to my list? Comment with them below :)

As I move forward with this blog, there will be a slight change of focus. My "classroom" now involves individual lessons and Musikgarten classes, so there will be an increase of topics in those arenas. I still have a few ideas from my time in the public school classroom to share, including my end-of-year packet for 2014, so those topics will be included.

And I promise not to wait 18 months ;)