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Lap Packs - How to Use Them and Why You'll Want To

Lap Packs are inexpensive ways to get students writing in music class.  Customize them to include exactly what your music students need.  This article has some great ideas for their use and FREE downloads!

I am a a big fan of writing in my music classes.  You'll probably notice as you browse through this blog that I use many different strategies for incorporating writing.  I use exit tickets, oral writing, group paragraphs, writing prompts and more.  Most of these tools are for writing about music, not actually writing notation.  Lap packs are my go-to tool for writing notation in my classroom. 

Lap Packs are inexpensive ways to get students writing in music class.  Customize them to include exactly what your music students need.  This article has some great ideas for their use and FREE downloads!

Lap Packs are my name for page protectors stuffed full of templates.  I have 3 or 4 sheets per page protector and most of them have a template on front and back.  I use a piece of cardstock or two when I am making the copies so the lap packs are pretty sturdy and can just be used on a lap.  No clipboard or desk needed! 

Lap Packs are inexpensive ways to get students writing in music class.  Customize them to include exactly what your music students need.  This article has some great ideas for their use and FREE downloads!
When I first started using lap packs, I paid extra for page protectors that were described as "high quality" and "extra thick".  Yeah....turns out that the cheap ones work just as well!  Some years I switch out 2 or 3 page protectors and other years I switch out 30 or 40.  It really depends on my students, how often I leave lap pack activities for my sub to use and how diligent we are when erasing them.  

I use regular dry erase markers and we erase with a piece of a paper towel.  I get a pack of paper towels from the custodians and then cut them in thirds.  We don't erase very much so the small piece of paper towel is more than enough.  Someday I'd like to buy something else to use as an eraser, but until then this free option works well.

I store my lap packs in a magazine box.  I encourage students to put them back in the box with the open side on top.  When others pull out a lap pack with the open side on top they don't lose all of the pages on their way to their seat.

Lap Packs are inexpensive ways to get students writing in music class.  Customize them to include exactly what your music students need.  This article has some great ideas for their use and FREE downloads!
Most of the sheets in my lap packs have two sides.  This just makes it easier for me when copying and it also makes it easier to have students change the sheets that are on top.  

On one sheet I have a large staff (no clef).  We use this with bottle caps for learning pitch names and melodic dictation.  I also use this side to introduce line notes and space notes with younger grades and for composing simple ostinatos.  The back side of this sheet contains 2 smaller staves.

Lap Packs are inexpensive ways to get students writing in music class.  Customize them to include exactly what your music students need.  This article has some great ideas for their use and FREE downloads!

The green sheet contains a set of body percussion staves.  I like to use different colored pages because it helps students find the sheet they need and switch them quickly.  The back of this page (pictured below) contains a graphic organizer.  This graphic organizer is great for instruments of the orchestra, SATB, identifying characteristics of a musical and more.  

Lap Packs are inexpensive ways to get students writing in music class.  Customize them to include exactly what your music students need.  This article has some great ideas for their use and FREE downloads!

Another page (copied on pink paper) contains 4 beat boxes.  Okay, you can call them whatever you want, but I call them beat boxes because each box represents one beat.  In the picture below you'll see that beneath the beat boxes there are two lines.  I use this sheet for composition projects using sol/mi or sol/mi/la.  Students draw a quarter note or barred eighth notes in one of the beat boxes and then draw note heads on the lines to indicate sol or mi.  Students are immediately successful and there are many activities you can do with their compositions.

Lap Packs are inexpensive ways to get students writing in music class.  Customize them to include exactly what your music students need.  This article has some great ideas for their use and FREE downloads!

Lap Packs are inexpensive ways to get students writing in music class.  Customize them to include exactly what your music students need.  This article has some great ideas for their use and FREE downloads!

On the flip side of the pink page is Martha Stanley's Mighty Music Grid.  I use this grid for SO many things.  My favorite activity for this grid is rhythmic dictation.  For Kindergarten classes we practice writing quarter notes and quarter rests and clapping our patterns with a friend.  In 1st grade we create sound songs by drawing symbols for various sounds and body percussion in each block.  In other classes we take rhythmic dictation just like you did in college.  I clap a rhythm, they echo and write it down.  Students love the challenge of matching my pattern and become quite skilled at deciphering rhythm patterns.

Lap Packs are inexpensive ways to get students writing in music class.  Customize them to include exactly what your music students need.  This article has some great ideas for their use and FREE downloads!

I also include a blank sheet in each lap pack.  This page has been used with my youngest students to illustrate what they have heard.  With older students we have created vocal exploration patterns, choreography, graphic organizers and flow charts and listening maps. 

 The picture below was an example from a 5th grader.  Okay...this wasn't just an average student.  This student went above and beyond and created a pretty amazing listening map for the overture from William Tell.  I'm not exactly sure what the question marks were for, but they worked well with the song.
Lap Packs are inexpensive ways to get students writing in music class.  Customize them to include exactly what your music students need.  This article has some great ideas for their use and FREE downloads!

If you are looking for a way to incorporate any of these activities but hate getting bogged down with shuffling papers and stacks of pages to grade, I would definitely recommend using lap packs and dry erase markers.  Instead of grading papers, I walk around the classroom and make notes on my attendance sheet and record points later.  This makes assessment easy for me and stress free for students.

So have I convinced you of the awesomeness of lap packs?  Try them out!  I put together a few of my favorite pages for you to try in your classroom.  Follow THIS LINK to download them.  Let me know how lap packs are working for you in the comments!

Like these ideas?  PIN THEM for later!
Lap Packs are inexpensive ways to get students writing in music class.  Customize them to include exactly what your music students need.  This article has some great ideas for their use and FREE downloads!



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Music Lesson Ideas for Quiet Days

Music lesson plans for days when you need to be as quiet as possible.  These quiet activities include ways to teach pitch, rhythm, composers and more in a quiet music classroom.

"You want me to teach music QUIETLY?" I said in disbelief.  "Is that even possible?"

It was testing season and I was fortunate to have my schedule only moderately rearranged.  The problem?  I had to teach music as quietly as possible.  I laugh thinking about how dumbfounded I was at the very idea.  Now with quite a few testing seasons under my belt I have a few suggestions for how to teach musical lesson in quiet ways.  Read on, but shhhh! Let's keep it down.

Pitch

Music lesson plans for days when you need to be as quiet as possible.  These quiet activities include ways to teach pitch, rhythm, composers and more in a quiet music classroom.
One of my favorite quiet activities for teaching pitch is to use my bottle cap staff sheets.  I have them laminated and use them for a variety of lesson.  For this lesson I pass out the sheets and a hand full of bottle caps.  I will say a word that can be spelled on the staff and students "write" it by putting their bottle caps in order.  In the picture, we just spelled "cafe".
Although the staff sheets are easy enough to make, I have a whole set of the staves and word cards in my store that you maybe interested in:  Bottle Cap Staff

 Rhythm

Music lesson plans for days when you need to be as quiet as possible.  These quiet activities include ways to teach pitch, rhythm, composers and more in a quiet music classroom.
 There are many ways to work on rhythm quietly.  Consider using chopsticks instead of rhythm sticks to play on the back of chairs or even on the floor.  The sound is light and intriguing for even 6th graders.
Another great quiet drumming activity (I know...quiet drumming?) is to use drum sticks on  foam garden kneeling pads.  I found purple and blue ones at Dollar Tree and LOVE that kids can really beat on them, but they sound delightfully muted.  :-)
Music lesson plans for days when you need to be as quiet as possible.  These quiet activities include ways to teach pitch, rhythm, composers and more in a quiet music classroom.

Rhythmic dictation is a pretty quiet activity too.  I use dry erase boards or lap packs (staff paper or blank paper stuffed into a page protector) and dry erase markers.  You might consider using craft sticks, rhythm cards, mini erasers (matching the syllables in the name of the eraser to the number of sounds in the rhythm) and more.  Clap or tap the rhythms on an instrument, students echo and then write it down.  It is a great assessment and requires great listening skills.

Instead of writing the rhythms down, you might consider having students listen to the rhythm that you play and then circling the correct notation from a few examples.  I have an entire set of "What Do You Hear" worksheets that ask students to do just that.  They vary in complexity so you can use the set with multiple grade levels.  Click HERE to learn more.
Music lesson plans for days when you need to be as quiet as possible.  These quiet activities include ways to teach pitch, rhythm, composers and more in a quiet music classroom.

 Composer Studies

Music lesson plans for days when you need to be as quiet as possible.  These quiet activities include ways to teach pitch, rhythm, composers and more in a quiet music classroom.
If you are able to show videos, I highly recommend the Composer Series of movies about the lives of famous composers.  (not an affiliate link)  You probably already have these in your classroom.  

In addition to showing composer videos, you might consider planning time for your students to just listen to, read about and color pictures of popular composers.  I've talked about this kind of thing in a previous blog post: Coloring Composers.  You can get the set that I use HERE.

I also LOVE Jena Hudson's composer flip books.  You can find them in her store, Sew Much Music on TpT, or follow this link to try the American Composers Set for free!  

 Listening

Music lesson plans for days when you need to be as quiet as possible.  These quiet activities include ways to teach pitch, rhythm, composers and more in a quiet music classroom.

Another quiet, creative activity is listening and responding.  Choose a piece of music that inspires a story or vivid mental images.  Have students listen the first time.  For wiggly classes you may want to have them lightly tap the beat or follow you as you tap the beat in various ways.  
Next, have students lie down (if possible), close their eyes and imagine what kind of story the composer wanted them to "see" in the music.
Pass out blank pieces of paper and have them illustrate what they have heard.  For K-2, I often use THIS set of writing prompts that already have a few words written and blank writing lines.

A few of my favorite pieces to use are:
"Moonlight Sonata" by Beethoven (Be prepared!  This one sometimes brings pictures of pets that have passed away!)
"Bugler's Holiday" by Anderson
"Stars and Stripes Forever" by Sousa (Shh! You might want to turn this one down a little!)
"Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks" by Mussorgsky
"Funeral March of a Marionette" by Gounod
"Minute Waltz" by Chopin
"Hungarian Dance No. 5" by Brahms

 Instruments of the Orchestra


If you are able to show videos, I highly recommend the Instrumental Classmates set of videos to introduce the instrument families.  I found my set on Amazon.  Quaver also has a great series of videos about instruments that your students will enjoy.  

If you are unable to show a video, your students might enjoy putting together a book of instruments.  Students can color the instruments, copy their name or add information about the instrument (with the add-on sheets included).  Click the picture above to get the full set of instrument families or click HERE to get the sampler for free.  Although this takes some time to make all of the copies you'll need, it is a great activity for a quiet day in music.

Another great quiet day activity is to read the book "The Remarkable Farkle McBride".  My 5th graders enjoy this story, so I can use this lesson with all of my classes.  At the end of the story, we will review instrument families and I'll pass out these simple coloring sheets.  While students are coloring we will listen to my classical music playlist for some quiet background music.

 Quiet Games

Music lesson plans for days when you need to be as quiet as possible.  These quiet activities include ways to teach pitch, rhythm, composers and more in a quiet music classroom.
Quiet games are not usually favorites in my classroom, but over the years I've come up with a few that students will give a reluctant thumbs up.  They would much rather be drumming and dancing and singing, but quiet days don't always allow for that.

Telephone - This traditional game is played by having students sit in a circle and whispering a message to each other until it makes it all the way around the circle.  Hilarity ensues when the message at the end sounds nothing like the message that started.  The same idea can work with rhythms.  Have students tap a 4 beat measure on the back of the person next to them and then pass that around the group.  Students can usually master this in a couple of tries so then we make it a bit more difficult.  Instead of sending one rhythm around in one direction, start two rhythms.  One goes to the left and the other to the right and they all end up back at the same person.  Tricky!

Roll and Cover is a game for small groups.  Students take turns rolling the dice.  The key on each page says a note or rest name.  Students then find that symbol in the picture and color one piece of the picture.  Taking turns, play goes around the circle until someone has every piece colored.  It is a nice way to review notes and clefs.  You can find Roll and Cover sets in my store.  Any normal die will work, but I always try to get the large foam dice to use because they are so much more fun!

I hope that you are never asked to teach music quietly, but if you are I hope that some of these ideas will prove helpful.  Like these ideas?  PIN THEM for later.

Music lesson plans for days when you need to be as quiet as possible.  These quiet activities include ways to teach pitch, rhythm, composers and more in a quiet music classroom. 


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How to Get Preschoolers to Love Classical Music


Preschool music class can be such a delight, full of giggles and pure joy.  Of course this is a perfect age for simple folk songs, dance parties, and sing-alongs, but listening to classical music is extremely important too. Incorporating classical music into your preschool curriculum in age appropriate ways will begin a lifelong love of beautiful and complex music.

Everything is still new to preschoolers, they are hearing, seeing and experiencing things for the first time. They haven’t established an opinion about what music is good and what music is stuffy & boring. By pairing classical music with playtime, we can provide preschoolers with a positive and enriching classical music experience. This is the beginning of learning to listen and respond to music they will enjoy for a lifetime.

Here are some of my favorite pieces of classical music for preschoolers and how to incorporate them into playtime.  

Pretend Play

We know that preschoolers learn best by imaging and playing. Adding classical music can elevate pretend play to whole new level of excitement and learning. Try these classical pieces and pretend play pairings:
                -Listen to The Elephant from Carnival of the Animals while you move around the room like a slow, heavy elephant. 
                -Pretend to take an adventure through a castle as you listen to In theHall of the Mountain King, by Evard Grieg. Model sneaky actions like tip-toeing and crawling at first, then change to more energized movement when the music speeds up. 
                -Imitate the fluid, stretching movements of a cat as you listen to Duetto BuffoDi Due Gatti. 

Sensory Play


Preschoolers love to feel new sensations with their fingers and they are not afraid to get their hands wet and dirty. Add classical music to these sensory ideas for a combined auditory kinesthetic experience:
                -Squirt shaving cream into a tray or directly onto the counter top. With one finger, have them follow the sounds they hear as they listen to Bach’sCello Suite No.1 Prelude
                -Fill a large plastic bin with water, cups, and scoops of different sizes. Listen to The Moldau by Bedrich Smetana while students scoop and pour water.  
-Let your students draw with one finger in a sand box or a tray of sand while they listen to Air on a G Stringby Bach

Relaxing Play


Classical music is also a fantastic way to get preschoolers to calm down and relax. Use these ideas at the end of your music class:
               -Ask your students to lay on the ground while you walk around the room slowly dropping feathers around them.  Listen to The Swan from Carnival of the Animals. 
-Blow bubbles while you listen to TheAquarium from Carnival of the Animals. Let your students follow the bubbles and try to catch them.
-Listen to Clair De Lune by ClaudeDebussy while you float a few balloons around the room. Let students gently bat them around, trying to keep them from touching the ground. 


Cori Bloom is the author of some amazing music teacher resources! You can find her resources at her Teachers Pay Teachers store, Rhythm and Bloom  You can also connect with her on FACEBOOK.

Did you like these ideas?  PIN THEM for later.


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Rhythm Go Rounds

Great ideas for using Music-Go-Rounds to teach rhythm.  Use them in centers, to decode song notation, with body percussion and more!

I have really been having a great time with the Music-Go-Rounds that I received from Music in Motion.  In a previous blog post, I talked about how I used them with vocal activities.  You can read about those activities HERE.  In this post I want to share with you some of the ways I have used them to teach rhythm.  Although these manipulatives are called Music-Go-Rounds, I borrowed the name "Rhythm Go Rounds" from a clever student that dubbed them as such.

Great ideas for using Music-Go-Rounds to teach rhythm.  Use them in centers, to decode song notation, with body percussion and more!

As I mentioned in my previous post, Music-Go-Rounds are thin, silicone circles that cling to a variety of surfaces.  They are so much fun to touch!  While working at some of these rhythm stations I had to continually get on to kids that loved playing with them.  I found one student that had folded them and placed them between each of his fingers.  I scolded him, but not until after laughing at him.  I could completely relate!

At this station, I introduced students to the duration relationship between the whole note, half note, quarter note and barred eighth notes by setting the Music-Go-Rounds up in this order.  We clapped through the patterns together and then I left them to create their own patterns.  In the photo below, you can see one of their examples.  This activity gave me the opportunity to work with students in small groups and to differentiate if needed.  This is a cabinet door in my classroom.  It has a smooth surface the the Music-Go-Rounds cling to it nicely.

Great ideas for using Music-Go-Rounds to teach rhythm.  Use them in centers, to decode song notation, with body percussion and more!

Great ideas for using Music-Go-Rounds to teach rhythm.  Use them in centers, to decode song notation, with body percussion and more!
This is another example from a group that only sort of paid attention.  I appreciate that they were sorting correctly though!


Great ideas for using Music-Go-Rounds to teach rhythm.  Use them in centers, to decode song notation, with body percussion and more!
In another activity, we used the Music-Go-Rounds to match the syllables of words with rhythm that could represent it.  After singing "Ode to Composers" from Music K-8 magazine, I thought I would use composer names for this closing activity of the lesson. 

Great ideas for using Music-Go-Rounds to teach rhythm.  Use them in centers, to decode song notation, with body percussion and more!
I do several different activities with body percussion from Kindergarten through 6th grade.  Students love to take the opportunity to create with body percussion.  I use the activities in THIS set from my store for composing with body percussion for lower elementary.  For upper elementary, we often transfer our patterns to a body percussion staff.
Great ideas for using Music-Go-Rounds to teach rhythm.  Use them in centers, to decode song notation, with body percussion and more!
I used masking tape to create this staff on a dry erase board.  I labelled the staff with "stomp", "pat", "clap" and "snap".  Students arranged rhythms for their small group and the group performed them.  They had such a great time that they didn't realize how much they were reading and performing rhythms.  Teacher win!

There are probably many other ways to do this, but I prefer using the Music-Go-Rounds over dry erase markers.  For some reason, I always have kids that draw on themselves with them.  That makes me crazy.  The Music-Go-Rounds are also such a novel way to keep students engaged too.
Great ideas for using Music-Go-Rounds to teach rhythm.  Use them in centers, to decode song notation, with body percussion and more!
After the small groups had a chance to experiment with this station, we created some patterns as a class.  We took turns performing each line, performing them all together and even reading the vertically!  

I hope this post has given you a few new ideas for teaching rhythm.  If you like these ideas PIN THEM for later. 

Great ideas for using Music-Go-Rounds to teach rhythm.  Use them in centers, to decode song notation, with body percussion and more!


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I Got Plenty of Nuttin'

Teaching music with no resources? How do you teach without text books, instruments, equipment or technology of any kind? This blog post explores ways to get what your students need to be successful by Martha Stanley.

Today's blog post is written by the extraordinary Martha Stanley, MME, NBCT EMC-MUSIC, 2002, 2012 (recently retired and currently rested).


   Twice in my 43 year career I have walking into teaching situations where there was very nearly nothing to work with, first in Florida and later in Arkansas. Both times I built a program and acquired materials and left those positions in far better shape than I found them.  I did have a decent budget, but it wasn’t sufficient, so I had to hustle to get what my students needed.  Since financing is always an issue, resourceful teachers find work-arounds.  
This article is intended to give you some ideas of things you might do to get things you need for your program.



My main reasons for success were based on five main activities.

1.  I kept my eyes open for what I wanted. Literally - I looked around. When I saw something that would be helpful, I took some appropriate action to secure it. It didn’t always work, but it sometimes I got great stuff like a LED projector on a cart and a class set of iPads.
2.  I asked around for what I wanted and for advice on how to get it. Many people knew things I wished I knew and when I asked them, I got great answers. Don’t be shy.
3.  I was active in my teaching peer-groups which put me in contact with people and situations that could be beneficial. This was possibly the most important aspect of my success. So, in answer to the question, “Should I join my professional groups?  They are soooo expensive,”  I wholeheartedly say, “YES.”
These groups included my local and state NAfME, Orff and union/professional groups. It also included being active in online music education groups.  I started the first online music ed bulletin board in Florida back in the 80’s.  There I met Artie Almeida and Laurie Zentz - good company, yes?  By going to conferences, I met well-known experts and authorities and quizzed them for ideas. I did one a favor and it has been returned ten-fold.  By being active online at Music K8 and much later Facebook, I met and have been enriched by Tracy King and many others.   By belonging to groups, I became aware of opportunities that turned into benefits for my students.    I did presentations locally, at state and national conferences and connected to a lot of people I knew only online. When I volunteered to re-do the Florida Elementary Music Education Association’s website, it connected me to the movers and shakers of the state level officers.  I suspect that was the beginning of why I was selected to be the Florida Music Educator Of the Year in 2009.  By putting myself in these places and situations, I was able to make nationwide (and one international) connections that paid off in free materials and more.
4.  I was willing to spend other people’s money for training in many things that are not necessarily music oriented.  But I saw how to transfer the learning into my teaching and as a result, I got knowledge and skills in topics that one wouldn’t normally expect a music teacher to have. Frequently, materials were offered as part of the training.  When federal funds were paying classroom teachers to participate in how to develop effective classroom groups, I insisted and badgered the administrators until they let me, a mere music teacher, join. I eventually turned that into my major paper for my master’s degree. I made sure I was in every technology opportunity offered to classroom teachers, even when it was initially offered only to classroom teachers. When national board teachers were invited to participate in a train-the-trainers course in Systematic Vocabulary Instruction, I rushed at the chance. Music teachers have vocabulary to teach, right?  I taught SVI at two schools and developed material for their classroom use that I was able to use in my music classrooms.  When I participated in union and staff development councils, I was sent to conferences on their dimes.   When an internship after completing Orff Level III was offered to me, I took it. All of these trainings impacted my students in positive ways, but I had to be open to the advancement and be willing to take it when it came along. These activities also connected me to people and programs that offered materials, grants and future contacts. And honestly, it showed that music teachers are more than “just music teachers.”
5.  I was willing to write grants. Yes, it’s a chore, but it sure honed both my ability to state succinctly what my students needed and also my ability to justify it to the grant readers, principals and other funders. I learned how to advocate for my program’s wants and needs and this helped convince others to give support.  My programs have been significantly improved by 12-15 grants - I’m not sure. I’ve lost track.   
           I stayed at the front of any new movements coming along, musical, classroom and technology, usually through being active in groups, and found that classroom teachers often failed to write grants which left me the opening to do so.  There are a lot of opportunities to get funding when you tap into classroom projects. For example, I got small percussion instruments which I used as wonderful adjuncts to a poetry writing unit.  When PowerPoint was the new thing, I figured out how to use it at school in new ways and got a big screen TV before projectors and flat screens were common. When Orff first came into my life, I figured out how I could get instruments (my first grant). Basically, I figured out what I wanted in my room and then dovetailed it into a grant somehow. You can do that too. Think creatively.

For what it’s worth, here are my biggest tips for writing a grant.  

  • Point out what your students CANNOT presently do because they don’t have the “thing” the grant is for. Figure out how to state what your students COULD do if you got the money for the grant. NEVER write it for how it will make YOUR life better even if that’s your main reason for writing the grant.  Make it about students, not you.
  • Don’t whine to me about how hard it is to do the paperwork and follow-up that may be required. Write it so that it’s realistic for you to do.  Don’t whine about how fake the project may be….”I’ll only do this for one year.”  YES!   One year to make your grant-funders happy and forever after, you do it YOUR way.
  • Figure out how it fits into something larger than your curriculum.  Twist your brain around until you can come up with how the students will benefit.
  • I used “assessment” as a hook more than once, for example. What education grantor can be against better assessment?? I included it as part of my professional growth plan as well to add more appeal to any grant I might want to write and because I was truly interested in doing better assessment. Without the grant object I wanted (a portable dry erase magnet board once and clickers/individual responders another time), my students would not be able to have effective individual assessment. Without the grant object (which just coincidentally was a wonderful thing for me - wink wink), they could not get high quality, tailored feedback that would inform my targeted instruction. Do you see how I used educational wording? So the hook was great for for the kids and I got things I drooled for.  Authentically and legitimately.  The grant readers, rarely music educators, could identify with the “assessment” and “targeted instruction” pitch a lot better than one that targeted getting kids to read staff notation better. (Yawn.) And in MY brain, how it played out in the classroom was going to look exactly the same either way plus it looked quite professional since it responded to my professional growth plan.
This is sometimes crazy-making, but it’s good for you and it’s really good for your students.


So with those five points in mind, I’d like to share what my no-cost materials acquisition process looked like in the real world, my last teaching assignment.  It was five years at two teeny, impoverished, rural north central Arkansas Title 1 schools where I had a total of 400 students and I taught K-12, instrumental and choral classes. I found a single box of crappy, pre-k type instruments to use for both schools. There was a collection of the previous 5 years of Music K8, Activate and Music Express, 5 keyboards, 2 bad boomboxes for sound. A nice piano at both schools was a pleasant surprise. I also discovered 52 VHS tapes that were clearly heavily used. One school supplied me with a new laptop. That, ladies and gentlemen, was the sum total of what the schools offered me to work with.


Materials acquisition became a high priority. Did I say that in an understated way or what?  As you read through the following, notice which “reason for success” or combination from above is being used.


Here is what I did to get free stuff.

  • I begged.  I got free buckets from a grocery store bakery, enough for both schools to do drumming.  The shop teachers furnished and cut up a bathroom wall board and I got 32 mini-white boards which I used extensively.
  • I whined.  One principal gave me the computer sound system right off his work computer. It was nice!  A community member who wished to be anonymous bought 30 ukuleles.
  • I went through the district technology dump rooms. More than once.  I found some truly uninspiring computer speakers that worked and voila, I had a classroom sound system. I also found a huge cork bulletin board and a smaller bulletin board which I had installed.
  • I searched every vacant room and closet for whatever I could find.  I found a projector on a roll-around cart and claimed it. I asked about the Smart Board that I’d seen just sitting around. It was being used as a room divider!  I asked every teacher in the building and no one wanted it, so I claimed it. I had to set it up, contact the company for software and do everything because it was the only IWB in either school and no one else knew anything about interactive whiteboards.  And it became MINE. All mine! (Insert evil laugh here.) It completely transformed my ability to deliver instruction.
  • I schmoozed the custodial and maintenance staff for anything I didn’t have.  They helped me get a dry erase marker board for one school, batteries for the clocks which I had to provide, and a whole lot of information about what was stashed where that came in helpful along the way. They came up with tables, shelving units, storage cabinets and file cabinets. Bless them.
  • I asked all the teachers for their ideas of what was available.  They knew things I didn’t about how to get supplies. I got a set of multi-fix cubes for composition and rhythm dictation from the math teacher. One teacher knew where a set of risers, unusable unfortunately, was in the tech dump room. One knew where there was a magnet dry-erase board and I got permission to get it, but we got a new principal who nixed that idea.
  • I used personal equipment.  No surprise there.
  • I wrote DonorsChoose grants. I got a Bose computer speaker that was great. I got a set of temple blocks for the high school drumline.
Teaching music with no resources? How do you teach without text books, instruments, equipment or technology of any kind? This blog post explores ways to get what your students need to be successful by Martha Stanley.

  • I checked with the other music teachers in the district and was able to get a conga drum for each school which I used a lot for movement and creative activities.
  • I was offered a complete set of usable risers from a teacher in a neighboring district and was not able to accept them because neither school would provide a storage space.  Sigh…...
  • I made friends with the tech people and tried to be interested, cooperative and supportive. I got quick fixes on tech issues and expert advice when I needed it. They helped me find equipment, carts, projectors, cords, plugs, and such so I could use the tech skills and knowledge that I’d built up over the years.  Once, in the tech office, I saw a pile of unopened iPads in boxes which sat there for quite awhile.  I asked about them.  There was, unbelievably, no plan for them.  I already knew how to use them better than anyone else in the school, so out of the goodness of my heart and my desire to use school resources to the max, I volunteered to use them in my classes and suddenly I had 10 iPads, a workable class set, at my disposal. I could have asked for more, but my conscience wouldn't let me.
  • I queried the school secretaries about everything to do with purchasing and schedules. They’re the ones who knew who the piano tuner was and what programs I was expected to set up and the workarounds I needed for all kinds of situations. They found me office supplies when others went without.
  • Before I moved, I was allowed to take some of the material I’d gotten through Florida grants with me including a generous set of Boomwhackers, which turned out to save my hide with high schoolers.
Teaching music with no resources? How do you teach without text books, instruments, equipment or technology of any kind? This blog post explores ways to get what your students need to be successful by Martha Stanley.

  • I had also volunteered to be on the Florida state textbook selection committee one year and got to keep the Share The Music teacher editions and support material that I reviewed, including the CDs. They were my only curriculum CDs in my new schools. Volunteering is a good thing.  Lots of useful payoffs come your way when you do.
  • I “cashed in” with amazing people I’d never met face to face who offered help.  As a result of being active online and in my state music education community (NAfME and Orff mostly), I knew a lot of people in my old state, my new state and over the nation.  These contacts were tremendously helpful in many ways as I worked to improve my new situation.  It was wonderful to have people I knew well online in my new state who could coach me about the differences in the two school cultures.  Laws, staff development issues, requirements that were totally new to me gave me fits but I had music people to help me out.  In my district, nobody knew much about how to feed and nourish a outsider music teacher.
  • I continued to whine online on Music K-8 (what a Godsend that site is), my go-to my online support community since 2003.  People generously started sending me things unsolicited! I was so humbled and grateful.
  • A well-known international music educator from Canada offered me a slew of materials left over from a conference.  We had created a good working relationship over the years and she pretty much saved me.  
  • A teacher from New York sent MIOSM stickers annually and a classroom set of recorders.
  • Another Arkansas teacher convinced her assistant principal who was visiting my area to bring me a complete set of old but really good Share The Music books.  Another sent a second set so I had a set per school.
  • A former Florida colleague sent me a pile of choral material.
  • TeachersPayTeachers was just getting started well and teachers asked me for feedback on their products pre-publication in exchange for keeping the materials.  I got some incredible resources that way. (Yes, Tracy King, I’m talking about you.)
  • While I was at a ArkMEA conference, I saw some flyers, just lying abandoned on a table in a hallway, for intriguing looking materials from a new Australian music materials publishing company. I remembered them when I saw their Facebook entries.  When they asked for volunteers, my hand was first to be raised. I got to try out and give feedback on several modules which turned out to be fabulous. And I got to keep the materials.
  • I researched online for free materials. I was especially strapped for high school instrumental material.
    I found keyboard material but I ended up needing to tweak it so much for my unique groups of students that it wasn’t very useful.  However, I discovered that bucket drumming was great for my middle and high school students. It didn’t take too long into the first semester before I was scrambling for age-appropriate material.  It had to be free and specialized for my students.  I found freedrumlinemusic.com! We ended up using it, with heavy adaptations, for a successful semester course which I taught three times.  
  • I also read Music K8 and Facebook music forums where people would mention free apps and I used apps to find free iPad apps.   I collected many freebies which I installed on the iPads.
  • Later, one school bought a pass at iTunes for iPad apps which could be downloaded to school iPads with a special password.  Few teachers took advantage of it so I asked if I could use the allowance.  I ended up spending quite a bit of money on big-time apps and got some fabulous music apps for the music iPads. With my unique curricular needs in middle and high school, some of the apps were wonderful for small group work in composition and research.  


All these little things accumulated until there was quite a bit of material added to the music program with no cost.  It did take willingness to put out some effort, to be an active part of professional associations, to read online material, to shake a few trees and do some work, but there was no cost for these things.  The program was being built.


My program was also supplemented by the budget provided, but don’t despair if you don’t have a lot of cash to spend.  Perhaps you can now see ways that you can augment your program after seeing what someone else did it with no cash.


Remember:  keep your eyes open, ask around, stay active and involved in professional activities, take advantage of training that may not be music-related,  and write those grants!
Good luck!
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Martha is a happily retired music teacher, pursuing new activities and interests like gardening, playing old time/bluegrass music and studying herbalism. But she still has school dreams many nights.
She has been certified K-12 in music and gifted/talented in both Florida and Arkansas. Along with her MME and Orff Level III+ certification, she is National Board Certified, EMC-Music 2002 and 2012.
She was named Florida Music Educator of the Year in 2009.  








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