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Notes from the Music Classroom

Joann Benson, ECMMA's columnist to the MENC community, is an elementary vocal/general music teacher in suburban Maryland. She has been featured in Teaching Music Magazine, and is well known in MENC general music circles. Joann earned her Bachelor of Music in performance from Mansfield University, and her masters degree in music education at Towson University. She has 15 years of teaching experience in New York and Maryland, and her goal is to NOT teach the same year 30 times.

 
 
 
 

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily promote official policy of ECMMA.

Who Belongs Here?

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Hello fellow educators- sorry to not post in so long. Teaching full time and more grad classes have sucked up all my available time.....

I have dealt in the past 7 years with more and more children with massive needs, as you have. The inclusion of  special needs children who in the past would have been in self-contained classrooms presents some daunting challenges for us all.

There have been times, I'm not proud to admit, that I've claimed that "That kid just doesn't belong here..." It's

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The Sacred Ordinary

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Greetings all- I was pondering what to share with you all as we begin another school year. What pearls (??) of wisdom should I impart? Maybe I should just share a really good casserole recipe..... but then thanks to my sister (who has labored long and hard as a speech therapist for more years than I've taught) this gem came across my computer screen. It comes from a teacher in Pennsylvania named Mary Ziegler- who has taught in a local Friends School. Many thanks to Mary for allowing me to

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Great Expectations

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So summer is slipping away... sadly.... and still so many good novels waiting for me!! As we approach the end of the world as we know it, I was thinking about the hours and hours of inservices we'll have to sit through when the year begins. While we're grateful for the support our administrators and supervisors offer us, here are a few things my colleagues and I hope to see- or not see- as the school year unfolds. None of these pertain to my own teaching situation- I'm a lucky camper- but 

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Seeds and Sprouts

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Happy summer to all my public school teacher friends!!! It's that wonderful time of the year where books can be read, tan lines created, and sleep caught up on.

I had the amazing experience this past week working for my beloved Baltimore Symphony Orchestra  with a team writing lessons to accompany next Fall's youth concert schedule. I was charged with brainstorming and creating materials to fit with four programs- one a Beethoven emphasis, one featuring the music and video of The Snowman ,

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ESEA reauthorization should include Music!!!!

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Good morning blog world!!  Today I'm just sharing

some important info from the National Association for Music Education (NAfME)

(if you're not already a member of this fabulous group I urge you to join)

Please take a moment and read about how you can urge our elected officials to support having Music education as an integral part of public school education. (this is directly from those great folks at NAfME)

 

How Will Music Education Be Affected by the Proposed

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Problem Based Learning Activity

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Hello all- in January of this year my Assistant Principal and I were chatting about the fact that in the morning the classes are so busy that announcements and the singing of our patriotic song were getting short shrift. She came up with a great idea- record the KIDS singing the songs so they'd own it! I took it a step further and turned it into a whole-school contest.

Each grade level (except K) learned a specific patriotic song. Then, afterI knew they were very sure of the notes and

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I’d like to teach the World to Sing (In perfect or imperfect)  Harmony…. I’m easy.

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Hello all- after repeated technical glitches I've gone over to Firefox to post on my blog. Explorer has let me down for the last time.... ugh.

My thoughts today are about how to teach kids to sing in Harmony. For pretty much my whole life any chorus director I had said "Oh, you play piano? Into the pit with you." So, my experience holding my part in harmony has been limited...... except that now I want my students to be better at it than I am.

I start with teaching rounds at the end of

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Advocacy Time!!

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Hello all! March is Music in our Schools Month  and I'd love to invite all of you to share your story about how music has affected your life, or that of your children or students. NAfME, the National Association for Music Education (formerly MENC) has set up a Groundswell advocacy site where stories will be shared with our elected officials- aka, the ones who hold the purse strings!

Here's how to participate, as noted on the NAfME website:

 

 

Calling all music educators, music

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Invite the World into your Classroom

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Greetings from chilly northern Maryland. Still no snow of any note............ but hope springs eternal. We did burn 2 days for Hurricane Sandy, but I wouldn't mind just an occasional snow day. It's been a while.

At my school our PTA (we say it stands for Pretty Tough Adults) is incredible. They've dedicated literally thousands of dollars the last 8 years to bringing in the very best cultural programs for our students. We are incredibly lucky that our students benefit from their generosity.

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New Year

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Hello all- wishing all my music friends a happy and safe 2013. I always feel like this is the start of the second half of our school year, although it's not.... we're about 3 weeks away from mid term. But, when we return after the holiday break, I always like to take a few minutes with each group to refresh their memories about my expectations.

Here's a song I use to review the rules for my room but in a fun way- I don't know who wrote it and I surely didn't! but, feel free to share it if

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Thankful

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Hello all- thank you first for the many comments and suggestions you all had on my blog about intentionally teaching the Star Spangled Banner! I jotted down your wonderful  ideas (see: blog about being an unabashed thief) and filed them with all my SSB resources. Great stuff!!

I'm feeling thankful this week. My home and school were in a direct path of Sandy the Frankenstorm this week. About 9 PM Monday night as my windows were shuddering and my cat was shaking and the newscasters in frantic

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Oh Say can you Sing? Making the case for teaching the National Anthem

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Being an adopted Marylander for 30 years now, I am proud of our little state's role in the history of the United States. Every September I make it a point to teach the history and proper singing of the Star Spangled Banner to my students. I really emphasize it with grades 2 and 5, but all students (except the littlest, where we talk about proper manners during the Anthem) are pretty up to date on their knowledge of the song. We sing it, create and decorate posters of it, and use

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Back from the Dead??

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Hello all- its been ages since I had a minute to post here. I'm appreciative of the wonderful updates ECMMA provides to us all and even when I don't have time to write, I sure do take the time to read all the posts from my talented colleagues.

This summer I managed to knock off 9- count 'em- 9! graduate credits. In my district we have "lane changes" that allow us to move up the pay scale based on credits. Since I already had a masters I could earn 30 more credits and get what they call the

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RESPECT…. tell you what it means to me….

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At the end of February I was privileged to represent my profession in a round-table discussion at the Federal department of Education in Washington DC. The National Association for Music Education (NAfME), formerly known as MENC, sent out a request for representatives from the neighboring states and I was able to tweak my schedule and participate. The discussion focused on a new initiative, RESPECT (which stands for Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence and Collaborative

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I lost my mind. I think the kids took it.

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I have decided to institute a no-whining policy in my world. If you whine I will charge you $10 to put up with you. This includes whining about bus duty, whining about pay freezes, and whining about parents who send ill-prepared kids to us. (oops. Did that sound like I was whining? Sorry.)

In order to generate a few smiles I've compiled a list of random goodness in the hopes of making you  chuckle. Here goes:

1. Student G comes in with birthday crown on. After singing Happy Birthday to

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I need a Stunt Double! errr… a Substitute Teacher.

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    The general public thinks teachers take the day off at the drop of a hat. Those of us in the know realize that we’d rather work with the bubonic plague than write sub plans- especially for six different grade levels in one day. Add to that the fact that rarely is a sub a musician and you surely see the dilemma. But, I refuse to give in. If you’re going to come to Mrs. Benson’s music room, you’re going to teach.

     I’ve found that the Share the Music series by McMillan-McGrawHill  has

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The Queen of Free

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Hello and Happy Valentine’s Day! I’m sorry to be so long away from the keyboard- I’m afraid other keyboards have been calling.

              Our school district usually spends down every penny around this time of year. And given the current economic climate there aren’t that many pennies around. I was thinking of all the things we scrounge up to make our classrooms work and I thought I’d share a few ideas from “The Queen of Free” (what one of my principals used to call me.) 

            

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I’ve got a brand new pair of roller skates, who’s got a brand new key?

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    Happy New Year readers! I hope this finds you ready to rock and roll in your music rooms in 2012. I know it isn't actually the middle of the school year but boy, does it feel like it. And all of a sudden all my students - all 460+ of them- are getting taller and looking more and more grownup. I'm very proud of all we've accomplished this year, and I'm energized for the run!

    These past few years our regional schools that taught our more profoundly disabled children have been

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So what do I do to keep my little ones engaged these next two weeks???

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So here we are, the last two weeks before the Winter Holiday. (We go right up to mid afternoon December 23. Bleh.) I have just a few minutes but I wanted to share a couple of fun activities I've used to keep the kids engaged during these hectic and frantic days.

One of my favorite things for my K and 1st graders is to sing "SANTA" to the tune of 'BINGO." For the K, we just do it straight forward- having one student erase each letter as we sing it . For first graders we figure out the ta and

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Listen up Round 2

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Hello loyal readers. So sorry to be delayed in posting- I'm taking concert season one day at a time but lately several days have ganged up on me.

My students did a lovely job at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. They were attentive and their behavior was exemplary. I was so ridiculously proud- when we left my contact at the BSO said "Well behaved and well prepared as usual Mrs. Benson. See you next year!"

I could live off that compliment for several months. (that and a healthy dose of

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