Getting the Classroom Ready…………….


Setting up a Music Classroom


True confession time: I used to be an independent when it came to setting up my room. The one time I had to let go was when I had knee surgery several years ago, and had to trust my daughters to set it up. Cold shivers, not because they did a bad job…..I just WORRY. I live in a messy organized system. This year, I did some major room changes. (More on that when the room is completely set up!) I mentioned in another blog post my friend Sheila offered to help me with my new arrangement. I took her up on it, knowing I had to give up my independent stubbornness, and I’m glad I did. I learned a lot. She learned a lot! (And ended up with a CD rack I no longer use ?. With her help, I moved outside my comfort zone box. Honestly, in other years, no matter how I wanted to “change my room”, I never really “changed my room” except to maybe get rid of a file cabinet here or a metal cabinet there.

So today, I returned the favor and helped her set up her room. Her file organization system is wonderful. I helped HER clean out a file cabinet and learned her numbering system for octavos. Basically, her octavos are listed with an abbreviation for her school and numbered. Then, she stored these on Google Drive and shared these with her music teacher colleagues. Simple, but it’s something I decided I needed to do with my own music colleagues.

We are lucky to have a Pendaflex distribution center in our county. Every so often, school personnel can go to the Pendaflex complex and gather freebies. Sheila gathered up these accordion file folders to store octavos and her Music Express copies in. So simple, but yet here are my poor octavos falling out of their silly little file folders, getting lost at the bottom of my file cabinet. So, (Dr) Stafford is probably going to make a little trip two miles from her house to see if there is surplus. Besides, my colleagues in my building will love me forever if I do. It’s been a while since that’s happened in my building. And organized octavos!

Something else I learned: I really need to think more outside the box with stuff that is ready to be thrown or with the freebies left in the teachers’ lounge. Sheila is good at that. She discovered this treasure (and a few more:)

Cool science container can hold mallets!

She decided they would be perfect for holding mallets, since the lid comes up. So, if you see anything like this lurking around that is up for grabs (I think they might be something that science teachers keep small critters in, but it’s clean!) and you want something to keep mallets in…there you go!

Sheila also has various games, but had some checkerboards and couldn’t decide how to use them. After some musing, I suggested there had to be a way to use them for harmony as the game was played and a player gathered conquered checker pieces. We determined that a teacher can draw various letters for pitches on one side of a piece and a note value on another, which can then be used for change music. So, upcoming blog entry….I will tell you how it goes!

Other treasures included peel off-numbers, MANY sheets of peel-off numbers. Sheila had so many that she insisted I use some. So, we took a break, talked about various things, and added numbers on index cards. For one set, we set up cards from 1-100 for primary kids to not only practice counting, but practice syllabic clapping, a precursor to rhythm and divisions of the rhythm, a teaching technique she uses. So, now, I will finally keep track of the first 100 days of school by using these cards on the correct day for whatever kindergarten/first grade classes I have. She also uses them for 1-2, Buckle My Shoe, having a card for 1, 2 for the kids to read, and her to complete the phrase. Eventually, then the students would be able to finish the phrase. I believe I’m going to add images of shoe buckles, shutting doors, etc. I would like to do a simple call-response adaptation where I will say the number, and the students say the object, and vice versa. Then, I might eliminate either numbers or the picture to use audiation and leave out the words that aren’t on the card. Many possibilities. Finally, we made several sets with the numbers 1-8 on each one so older students can work together to create polyrhythm compositions. 

Dollar Tree genius: Sheila has several of the smaller, more rectangular versions of these storage boxes from Dollar Tree.  Her instruments are set up on tables, so she puts the mallets and accidental bars in each little plastic box to set up next to the instruments for the day. Although I have my IKEA storage for mallets, I still went right out and bought more of those boxes, because I love the idea of the kids putting the bars they remove in those boxes. No clacking the bars from boredom. No leaning the bars inside the instrument. No losing bars. (I hope!) Since I have the Basic Beat instrument stands, these boxes can go right under them.

No matter how many years one has taught, there is always something to learn, especially if it’s in someone else’s classroom, because you KNOW it’s being applied. Sheila and I not only got to know each other even better, but we were able to gather information from each other, learn from each other, and brainstorm together for new activities for both of us. A note: Sheila had been my daughter’s sixth grade music teacher (and my daughter is now 25), so it was fun to go back and see the room and see how things had changed and listen to her share how she grew as a teacher over that time. WHY did I wait so long to do this?

If you get a chance, set up your room with a music buddy. If there’s no music buddy, see if you can lasso a classroom buddy. You can still bounce ideas off of them and ask them how they would use objects in their own classroom. You can get a much better idea of room rearranging with help. We tend to get stuck in our ruts without realizing it. With a buddy, that rut can get shaken up, and often for the better. 

The buddy system is a good thing. Feel free to share in the comments how YOU utilize a buddy system to get ready for school.

Next time: solar eclipses ideas for the music classroom.

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Hi there!

I am an elementary music teacher and adjunct professor from Missouri and have completed my Ph.D. in music education through the University of Kansas.

I am an elementary music teacher and adjunct professor from Missouri and have just completed my Ph.D. in music education through the University of Kansas.


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