Well THAT Didn’t Last Very Long……

Retirement, that is.  I’ve had a lovely year off.  I taught voice and helped out with rehearsals at the High School in the district I retired from.  Little did I know I was being prepared……


On Monday I will begin a new school year, in a new school with a new room…..and students, K-12.  Now, anyone who’s been reading this blog for a while knows that there are no 7-12 lesson plans on it.  That’s because I’VE NEVER TAUGHT 7-12!  AHHHHHHHHH!  So, Tuesday Music is about to become very interesting….lesson plans from a rookie.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about how I will greet my new, older students.  I don’t know anything about them, except that the 11th and 12th graders haven’t had music since 5th grade.  Actually…that’s a little bit comforting.  It makes me feel a little less “in over my head.”

I’ve started 2 notebooks…one for the k-5 students, which I’m not nearly as nervous about, and one for the 6-12 students.  I think it will help me stay organized if I can keep the two separate.

So here’s what I’m planning for class number one, for all of my non-elementary students.  I would love comments and suggestions.  Help me!

I am all about relationship in the classroom.  I want to get to know these kids, and I’d like them to get to know me as well.  I think that rapport goes a long way in being able to get your lessons across.  Students who know that you like them and want them to do well, and are not going to jump down their throats if they don’t understand will try hard and ask questions.  I guess I’m trying to create a safe environment.  So, the first thing I’m going to do is tell them a little bit about myself:  I taught music in public school for 30+ years, I’m married to a man that some of them know, since he teaches guitar at the same school, I have 3 sons, all grown and gone, and 2 wonderful Golden Retrievers.  Reading is my favorite hobby.  Since I’ll be teaching at a small Christian School, I’m also free to tell them that I’ve been a follower of Christ since the age of 17. Hopefully, there will be something in there that each one can relate to.  I plan to ask if anyone has any questions for me, just in case.

Then, I’ll need to start getting to know who they are of course.  I’m going to ask each one to tell me their name, and somethings they would like me to know about them.  It’s not music, but in this situation, I think it’s time well spent.

As I do with the elementary students, I have a folder for each of them for papers, music and student work.  The first thing that will go into the folder…which will stay in my classroom, so that I can look at them….is a questionnaire.  I’m hoping that it will give me some idea where to start.  So, here it is…my very first non-elementary activity.


Name_____________________________________   Grade_______

1.  What is your favorite style of music?  *Pop  *Rock  *classical  *Jazz  *Broadway       *Hip Hop  *Christian Contemporary  *Country  *Bluegrass  *Celtic  *Other

2.  To what radio station do you most often listen?

3.  What was your last purchase on iTunes?

4.  Do you play any instruments?  If so, please list them.

5.  Do you enjoy singing?  If so, at what level?  *In the shower.  *In church.  (As part of the congregation).  *On a praise/worship team.  *In a choir.  *  I’ve had voice lessons. *I know my voice type: Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass.  (Circle the one that best fits your voice, if you know.)

6.  Circle one:

*I can read music.

*I can read music to some degree.

*I cannot read music.

7.  In your opinion, why is it important to study music?

8.  Name something besides a musical instrument that can keep a steady beat.

9.  What is the difference between beat and rhythm?

10.  List as many musical vocabulary terms as you can think of.  (Example: treble clef, staff, tempo….)

11.  List all of your musical experience:  (Example: Praise Team, Cherub Choir, Band…)


That’s as far as I’ve gotten.  As you can see it progresses from personal information, to  an assessment of what they do or do not know.  After I’ve given them some time to fill it out, we’ll discuss it.  I get to know them better, and there are a few good conversation starters in there.

But what else should be on here?  What else do I need to know?

Thanks in advance for your help!



Jane Rivera  

All Rights Reserved

August 2013


iPad App: My First Classical Music

When I first saw the book, “My First Classical Music” by Genevieve Helsby and Jason Chapman I snapped it right up. It’s a great book for elementary music students. If you happen to be a music teacher with an iPad, you might want to opt for the app instead.

The book comes with a cd, so all of the music and sounds of instruments are there, but, in my opinion, it was a stroke of genius to turn this particular book into an app. Most kids will enjoy all of the moving, talking, sound making pictures. Still, there is something to be said for reading at your own pace, holding a real book in your hands, turning pages…..




Since I decided to buy the app, my copy of the book, with cd is now part of the retirement sale. I thought it was a bargain when I bought it new at $13.00. Selling for $10, which includes the cd and shipping.

Grade 1, Music Literacy Lesson 3

In the last lesson we worked on steady beat by having the students practice keeping the steady beat to Yankee Doodle, while I sang it, and then while they sang it while clapping the beat at the same time.

In this lesson we will continue practicing our steady beat with “Hickory Dickory Dock.” As with “Yankee Doodle” I use some kind if visual that I can point to in order to help them stay with the beat, whether it’s pictures of clocks in rows, or just beat lines.

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I have the students say the syllable “doo” each time I touch one of the beat lines. Next they say “doo” and clap each time I touch the beat lines. The third time, I tell them that they are in charge of the “doos” and claps while I sing Hickory Dickory Dock. Virtually all of them know the song,so the 4th time around they sing and clap at the same time. So far it’s the same thing we did with Yankee Doodle.

At this point I show them how to hold rhythm sticks at their shoulders when they are not playing. When I pass out the rhythm sticks they are expected to put them in the “sticks at rest” position against their shoulders and keep them that way until I tell them what to do next. Anyone who cannot do this will lose their sticks. It seems harsh, but it only takes one kid losing their sticks for them to understand that if they want to play, they have to follow directions. It makes things easier for the entire rest of the year.

On “The clock struck one” we tap our sticks one time. “The clock struck 2” – tap 2 times, using steady beat. “The clock struck 3” – tap 3 times. “The clock struck 4” tap 4 times, etc. We also count the taps as we play them, as this helps them to stay on the steady beat.

More steady beat practice, once I’ve collected the rhythm sticks: With students out of their seats and spread out around the  room,I ask them to copy whatever I do, keeping my steady beat as their own.   Using at least 4 beats at a time, sometimes 8 to 16, depending upon how well the kids are doing with it, we tap feet, nod heads up and down, shake heads back and forth, rock from one hip to the other, bend knees, move elbows up and down, knock knees together, clap with 2 fingers, touch our noses, stick tongues in and out, wave arms back and forth in the air, strum air guitar, jump up and down, (hard for them to stay with the beat), do the twist, shoulders up and down, eyebrows up and down, and anything else we can think of. Then we set it to music. “Bo-wo-wones” by Jim Valley is well worth the .99 you’ll spend for it on iTunes. (Remember that iTunes card I told you would come in handy? They’ll send you an email receipt for every piece of music you buy….keep it for tax purposes.) Put the song on, have the kids copy you, and let the steady beat motions rip. He tells you what to do on many of the verses motion wise, and you’ll easily figure out what to do on the rest.

There you have it….literacy lesson #3 for grade 1. Additional ideas anyone? Please feel free to comment!

The Week in a Nutshell: Friday, Sept. 2, 2011

The first week of school is a done deal. In spite of Hurricane Irene, power outages around the district and in other areas as well, school opened on time on Monday morning.

Most of my days went according to plan, but I did run short on time, so that some things will have to be put off until next week.

Every class got their folders, reviewed the rules with Mini Me, and sang. Again, thanks to Kristin Lukow for the “Queen of the Music Room” idea….the kids got a bang out of it.

Mini Me animation

The Cars2 theme was a big hit, as was my Mini Me animation. The kids love “School is Back in Session Now” by John Riggio in this year’s first issue of Music K-8 magazine.

Some of the intermediate classes got to view the “You Can Shine” commercial by Pantene, but even those who got to see it didn’t have much time to discuss it. BUT….my kid blogging project was approved, so responding to that video will be their first writing assignment. It won’t be mandatory, but seeing which kids respond to it will be revealing. The parent letters and permission slips are ready to go home next week, and I will present the concept to 5th grade as part of their lesson. As soon as I ‘ve thought that presentation through, I’ll post it, along with the parent letter and permission slip.

You Can Shine

The primaries listened quietly to “Air for the G String” by J. S. Bach, along with a technique for remembering his name. ( You sound like a chicken if you say it twice.). I’m preparing an animation on Goanimate4schools featuring Mr. Bach sitting in on our music class. I plan for him to break a few rules while giving facts about himself. Eventually, he’ll wind up in the Principal’s office, heheheh. I’ll post the link when it’s ready.

For next week: I’ll start the first music literacy lessons in grades 1,2 3 and 4.

Grade 1

Grade 2

Grade 3

I taught them the first 2 warm-ups last week, so this coming week I’ll go on to all of the “Proper cup of coffee in a copper coffee cup” variations.
MemoVariation 1:

MemoVariation 2:

MemoVariation 3:

Grade 4

Grades 1 and 2 will read/ hear/ sing “Pete the Cat: Rockin’ in my School Shoes.”. We weren’t able to get to that this week.

Intermediates will learn “One Nation” from Music K-8 in preparation for 9/11. Our district is very low-key about this anniversary, particularly at the elementary level. Although we have permission to present it in some way, every year we are made aware that most of our kids don’t remember what happened that day, that it was a frightening thing, and that there are some parents who do not want it addressed with their children. I’m torn, especially on this 10 th anniversary, so I’ve decided to teach the kids “One Nation”, as opposed to “American Tears”, which I love and taught on the first 9/11 anniversary. I’ll make a few general comments about why we’re singing the song once we’ve learned it, and then follow the kids’ lead, discussion wise.

OK…I’m headin’ for the beach. Comments, questions, ideas are all welcome!! Have a great weekend!



Renaissance Classroom Pictures

These are pictures of my classroom in a previous year. The theme was castles and Renaissance. You can click on the pictures for a larger view….just use the back button to return to the page.

He was about 4 feet tall, so I stood him on some file boxes to give him height.

I know, I know…Bob Dylan wasn’t Renaissance. I’m kind of eclectic.

Wide view, showing my roll up keyboard and banners hanging from the center beam. (It's a working keyboard.)

Bulletin board detail

The Mrs. Rivera, Mayor silly picture was left over from Tune Town, the previous year.

Bulletin Board

Bookshelf. This represents about half of my personal library.

Sometimes toys make great, inexpensive decorations. The small picture at the bottom is me and some colleagues doing our end of the year Temptations impersonation.

The Temps. Not.

These are costumes from my a capella singing days, thoroughly researched and accurate. I held her up by draping the clothing over a stack plastic containers.

King Henry VIII and one of his headless wives. Don't worry...I didn't tell the kids that.

Classroom Pictures

My classroom theme for this year is “Cars2”. I always try to find something that the kids will relate to. The year that “Pirates of the Caribbean” was out I had a pirate theme, one year I did “Tune Town”, loosely named after a computer game, and last year, since our first listening unit was Renaissance music, I did a castle. My thinking is that I want the kids to enjoy coming into the music room. The first step in that process, for me, is creating as much of a “Wow” factor as I can afford. So here are some pics. You can click on any of them for a larger view.

Our first song will be “Route 66.” You can get any version you want, Karaoke, on iTunes. I went with two: Nat King Cole and John Mayer. (Disney version.)

What the kids will see as they come in the door

traffic light detail

bulletin board

"Brandenburg Concerto"..bulletin board detail

back wall

back wall detail

"Musicians Start Your Engines" compliments of Juli Salzman, from Music K-8 list.

back wall detail

back wall detail


White Board

Grade 4, Music Literacy Lesson 2

Our 2nd music lit lesson for Grade 4 is one that I actually haven’t used before. It is still review, and will use do, re, mi, sol, la, half note, quarter note, eighth note, bar line, measure, and double bar.

I think I’ll begin by asking the students to remember what a bar line is for, and how many beats we are putting in each group. This will easily lead to note values for each type of note, and perhaps some note value addition. (Quarter + Quarter = Half,
Eighth + Eighth + Quarter = Half etc.) The large 2 at the beginning of the song will show that we are putting 2 beats in each group, called measures. I will ask them to count how many measures are in the song, and write the number on their whiteboards. I always ask them to try to keep their answer a secret and hold up their boards at the same time so that I can assess what each one really knows, as opposed to what a few know and the rest copy.

One way of showing beats in measures is to put 3 hula hoops on the floor so that kids can easily step from one into another. he hoops form a circle.)
If we want 2 beats in a measure, we step into a hoop, then pull the other foot along side, always stepping forward into the hoop on 1. (After practicing with counts move to “The Ants Go Marching.”) For 4 beats in a measure, we step, march, march, march; step march march march. (Move to “I’ve Been Workin’ on the Railroad.”) The tricky one is 3, because you’re always stepping forward on the opposite foot. (Move to “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.) But, I digress….

I always practice the rhythm first, having the students speak it in Gordon syllables: half note= doo-oo, quarter note = doo, eighth notes = doo-day. Next we speak and clap. (Clap and swing the half note.) Finally we “speak” in our heads, only hearing the rhythms through the claps. 3 different ways of performing the rhythms allows for multiple practice experiences.

Now we work on the melody, first by practicing the tones we will be singing using the Curwen hand signals.

On the board I have noted on the staff where do is located. After reviewing line and space notes we slowly read the tones without rhythm. (This may or may not be necessary more than once.) The last thing we do before adding the words by rote is to practice the tones and rhythms simultaneously.

The words are easy:

Oh, I’m gonna sing, gonna sing, gonna sing, gonna sing all along the way.
Oh, I’m gonna sing, gonna sing, gonna sing, gonna sing all along the way.

(Southern Folk Tune.)

Next week we start something new: Low sol.

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