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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Favorite Lesson for Teaching Half Notes

In honor of Music In Our Schools Month, I'm going to be sharing my favorite lessons for teaching various rhythmic elements. I'm sharing these ideas in conjunction with a month-long collaboration I'm doing with a group of amazing music education bloggers over on the Music Ed Blogs Facebook page, where we are sharing a new rhythm-related teaching tip each day. You'll get tons of great ideas just by following along, so be sure to go follow the page to catch all of the tips from other bloggers (and get the scoop on a special gift coming at the end of the month)! If you're reading this after the fact, do not fear- you can search for #31daysofrhythm any time to find all of the ideas that we've shared!

Today I'm focusing on half notes. I teach half notes in 2nd grade, and it's the first rhythm they learn that is longer than one beat. There are lots of great lessons that I love using to teach and practice half notes, but today I wanted to share one of my favorite songs to use to introduce half notes.


I like to introduce half notes for the first time with the song, "Bickle Bockle":


I particularly like this song because I can also teach the solfege pitches 2nd graders are working on, mi, sol, and la, with the same song! It's also short enough for students to learn quickly.

We start by learning the song, then I have the students walk around the room on the steady beat while singing. Once they can do that, I have them stop and practice clapping with the rhythm of the words while they sing. After doing it the first time, I point out that there are a few long notes in the song where we keep singing but we aren't clapping, and I ask students to identify those long notes ("sea" and "me"). Then I tell them to clap and then keep their hands together, then I tell them that they actually have bubblegum stuck to their hands and I stretch my top hand up while making a grimacing face. The kids love that idea! I tell them to stretch out their bubblebum on the two long notes, and we practice singing and clapping the rhythm in place again. We all grimace when we sing the long notes too ;) Once they can do it while standing in place, I tell students to walk around the room on the beat while clapping and singing. The final step is to take out the singing and just walk and clap.

Once everyone can successfully walk on the beat while clapping the rhythm, including stretching out the long notes, I tell students that the "bubblegum notes" are actually half notes, and we discuss how many steps they took for each bubblegum notes (2!).

Whenever I introduce a new rhythm, I like to have students practice reading it from notation in short, 4-beat rhythm patterns right away. We practice speaking the rhythms, clapping them, and then playing them on instruments. Here are some examples I use with my students- I like to first have them play one line at a time, and then eventually try to play all of them in a row without stopping.


Once they can perform the new rhythm, I like to have them use it in a composition exercise. For this lesson, I have them create a 4-beat rhythm and have them play it on an instrument of their choice as a rhythmic ostinato while the other students sing the song and play the accompanying game. By doing the song with a game, I can have my students repeat the song over and over without it feeling like drilling! My favorite game instructions are at the end of this video:


With this age, I like to do most of my composition activities with manipulatives. For 2nd grade, when they are learning to incorporate half notes in their compositions, my favorite manipulatives to use are my monster magnets. The kids love them and they are such a great, concrete way to help them see the 2-beat value of the half notes! You can read more about them in this post:


There are plenty of other manipulatives that you can use, though, that are much less work to put together. If you're looking for more ideas for composition manipulatives that work great with lower elementary students, here is a post I wrote on where to find them cheaply:


What are your favorite ways to teach half notes? There are so many great songs and activities to use to teach this rhythm- I'd love to hear your favorites! Leave a comment below to share your ideas. And don't forget to go follow the Music Ed Blogs Facebook page for more great ideas all month long! Happy Music In Our Schools Month!

Looking for more lesson ideas? See my full curriculum here.

Get updates, free curriculum resources, and more!

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Monday, March 20, 2017

My Go-To Online Resources for New Recipes

If you're too busy to slave away in the kitchen for an hour but still want to eat healthily, this post is for you! I'm always looking for great recipes that are easy and fast to make, healthy enough, and are appealing to my 5-year-olds and to me. I just didn't have that many recipes in my arsenal that fit the bill in all of those categories, and I was getting tired of making the same things over and over again! I've come across several online resources recently where I've been able to find lots of new recipes that fit all of my needs, so today I wanted to share those with you!


Very Easy, Not As Healthy
These two sites have lots of very easy recipes, and they're great for when I'm super busy. They aren't the healthiest recipes in the bunch, but they do have quite a few recipes that are healthy enough for me to feel good making when we have a particularly busy day.

1. A Year of Slow Cooking
Of course one great way to save time in the kitchen is with a slow cooker- I love when I can throw things into the crock pot before work and come home to a ready-to-eat dinner! This site has every kind of slow cooker recipe you can imagine. Here's her recipe for honey garlic chicken, which is simple and quick to throw together but very tasty. 

2. Bigger Bolder Baking
As the title suggests, this one has mostly sweet treats, but she also has quite a few mug meals that you can make in the microwave in just a few minutes! I've found a lot of great after school snacks here, and the microwave mug meals are great when I'm eating dinner alone (and on the run). Here's a video with 5 mug meal recipes!

Pretty Easy, Pretty Healthy
These two sites have mostly recipes that are not "dump-and-go", but they are still pretty easy- most of them can be made in under 30 minutes- and most of the recipes are healthy (and kid-friendly) as well! Many of these recipes have made it into my regular dinner rotation.

3. The Domestic Geek
This site has so many great, healthy recipes that are easy to make, it's hard to choose just one to recommend! For most weeknight dinners, these recipes are the perfect balance of healthy and easy for me. Here's a video with 3 easy meals you can make on 1 sheet pan!

4. Asian at Home
Many of you know that, having grown up in Japan and spent a good amount of my adult life living in Korea, I am particularly partial to East Asian food. This is a great place for getting relatively easy recipes for Asian food of all kinds- she has Japanese, Korean, Indonesian, Thai, Chinese, and other cuisines represented and she explains how to get any unusual ingredients in the U.S. as well. Here's a great, super-simple recipe for Oyakodon, a Japanese chicken and rice bowl that I absolutely love.

I hope you found some new recipes to keep you and your family eating healthy on busy weeknights! If you want to see more of my favorite, simple and healthy recipes, check out my Pinterest boards:



What are your favorite places to find new healthy and easy recipes? Have a favorite weeknight dinner recipe that your whole family loves? I'd love to hear about them in the comments!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Favorite Lesson for Teaching Whole Notes

In honor of Music In Our Schools Month, I'm going to be sharing my favorite lessons for teaching various rhythmic elements. I'm sharing these ideas in conjunction with a month-long collaboration I'm doing with a group of amazing music education bloggers over on the Music Ed Blogs Facebook page, where we are sharing a new rhythm-related teaching tip each day. You'll get tons of great ideas just by following along, so be sure to go follow the page to catch all of the tips from other bloggers (and get the scoop on a special gift coming at the end of the month)! If you're reading this after the fact, do not fear- you can search for #31daysofrhythm any time to find all of the ideas that we've shared!

Today I'm focusing on whole notes. Does anyone else struggle to come up with really effective ways to teach whole notes? So often whole notes come at the end of the song and make it difficult for students to truly experience the 4-beat length. It took me a few years but I've found a few ways to teach it that work for my students, and today I wanted to share one of my favorites with you.


I use the song, "Standin' On the Platform" to introduce whole notes:


I love using this song for 2 reasons: it has a whole note in the middle of the song, plus a half note and dotted half for comparison, and I am able to do it with a fun movement game, which helps students to more naturally experience the whole note.

When I first teach the song, I have students walk on the beat and move their arms like a train (you know, back and forth with your elbows bent like the metal things connecting the train wheels....). Once they have learned the song, I have them keep walking in place and singing while I start wandering the room (still moving my arms with the beat like a train). At the end of the song, instead of "Liza Jane", I sing another student's name, and that student starts following me around while we sing again. At the end of the song, that student sings another student's name, who joins our "train", and we keep adding until we've got the whole class in one long line marching around the room (side note: I often mix things up and take the opportunity to review tempo and/or dynamics vocabulary by singing some verses at different speeds and/or volume levels- keeps the kids engaged and following my singing!).

Once the last student has joined the "train" (this is also a great way to do a quick assessment of their singing- if you're doing that, you'll want to have the last student sing as well, in which case I secretly give them a silly character's name to sing and make the whole class laugh, like "let's go minion Bob" or something like that, or the principal or homeroom teacher's name), I have them stay in the train formation but this time tell them to clap the rhythm of the words while they walk on the beat and sing. Any time they have a long note, they should pretend they have bubble gum stuck to their hands and stretch out the bubble gum until the end of the note.

Once they've experienced the long notes, I ask them to identify the two rhyming words (train/Jane) and then tell me how many beats those words are (4), and I show them the notation for the new note. I always tell students to remember that it is called a "whole note" by noting that the open circle looks like a hole (I use a similar memory hook for whole rests- read about that in this post).

I include a few different songs in younger grades that include whole notes to get them experiencing the concept before I formally introduce it- I especially like using poi balls with the Maori song "Hine E Hine" to experience whole notes in 2nd grade- you can read about that lesson and other ideas for incorporating Maori music in this blog post!

What are your favorite lessons for introducing whole notes? I'd love to hear them (and I'm sure other readers would as well!) in the comments below! And don't forget to go follow the Music Ed Blogs Facebook page for more great ideas all month long! Happy Music In Our Schools Month!

Looking for more lesson ideas? See my full curriculum here.

Get updates, free curriculum resources, and more!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Dinner Recipes for Kid Cooks

I've talked before about how I got my daughters started cooking dinner once a week. When it comes up every now and then in conversation, the first question I usually get (after the initial look of shock) is, "What do they make?". Of course every child will have different levels of experience, fine motor skill, attention span, interest, etc, but I thought I would share some of the meals my daughters often cook (and have been cooking since around the age of 4). If you're looking for some ways to get your kids involved in the kitchen, these meals are a great place to start!


1. Tacos

Tacos are great because you can put almost anything in them, and the ingredients are easy to prepare. The girls put each ingredient in its own bowl and set everything out on the table so each person can make their own tacos. Add some tortillas and dinner is served!

Some of the ingredients my daughters often include:
Vegetables: avocado, carrots, spinach, bell pepper, canned corn, canned black beans
Meat: chicken (cut into bite size pieces and cook in a frying pan with some onion powder and/or salt), ground beef or pork (cook in frying pan with onion powder and/or salt), hot dogs (cut into bit size pieces and cook in a frying pan- yes this happened, and it wasn't as terrible as it sounds), shrimp (cooked in a frying pan- they only did this once but it was awesome)
Other: shredded cheese, salsa, cilantro

2. Sandwiches

The girls love making sandwiches to order- peanut butter and jelly, tuna salad, and ham and cheese are usually the choices, and they are easy for the girls to put together (once I open the can of tuna for them). They've recently started making grilled cheese as well! Usually the sandwiches are accompanied with some fruit and maybe a cooked vegetable too.

3. Macaroni and Cheese

Of course we can't forget the boxed mac and cheese dinners! There are some reasonably-healthy options out there now, so we stick to those brands, but the girls pretty much have this recipe memorized now and don't even need my help reading the directions on the box! This meal usually comes with a fruit and/or salad as well ;)

4. Meatballs

This recipe for baked meatballs is easy to put together- it's basically just meat, eggs, breadcrumbs, and seasoning. They love rolling the mixture into balls, and although they do need help getting them in and out of the oven, they can do the rest of the preparation themselves. These are usually served with dipping sauces (ketchup, bbq sauce, etc) and some sides.

5. Pizza

Although they can't quite get the dough stretched out enough on their own, the girls can do the rest of the pizza making on their own. This is another recipe where they can have fun with the toppings too, and a great way to get lots of vegetables in- the different colors from the vegetables make the pizzas more fun! ;)

Of course there are many other meals that they've made over the last couple of years, but these are some of their favorites that most kids can make (almost) all on their own! If you're looking for more kid-friendly recipes, my girls love this cookbook:


If you've never given your preschooler control of the kitchen, I highly recommend it. It's a great way to give young kids more independence and responsibility at home in a way that is fun and exciting! Read this post for more tips in getting started: