Cara’s Classroom 2014



School starts on Monday and, although I’m not QUITE finished with my classroom, it’s as ready as it’s going to get.  Ha!Cara at MiscellaneousMe Classroom 2014

Music Connections Bulletin Board

 Where Words Fail, Music Speaks Poster

Cara @ MiscellaneousMe’s FB Page (Music is a Language Download)

Cara at MiscellaneousMe Classroom 2014

Anchor Concept/Vocabulary Charts (Set of 10)

Each one is also sold separately for buyers who would like to pick and choose which ones to purchase.

Cara @ MiscellaneousMe Classroom 2014

Cara @ MiscellaneousMe Classroom 2014

Cara @ MiscellaneousMe Classroom 2014

I’m linking up to Aileen Miracle’s  “My Music Room Set-Up”

my music room set-upThanks for reading!

Name for blog


Products for Prep!

Can you believe it is August!?!?!

This time has FLOWN by!  There were so many things I wanted to do this summer (and, let me tell you, I’ve been busy) but I’m just not done!

Luckily, I officially have two weeks until I HAVE to report back.  If I choose to go earlier……

ANYWAY,  I’m participating in Aileen Miracle’s Products for Prep Linky Party.  The idea is for teachers to share what products or ideas get them going to start a successful year.

products for prep

Before I get to that though, I wanted to share that TOMORROW starts the Back to School Sale on Teachers Pay Teachers!  My entire store will be 20% off and, with the code BTS14, you can up that percentage off another 8% off your total purchase site-wide.  I already have my cart packed and ready to check out come Monday morning. (I’m never this excited about a Monday!)Teachers Pay Teachers


Alright, back to prepping for a new year!


1. Year-At-A Glance Lesson Plan Template for Music Teachers



I created this format a couple years ago because the logical big-picture part of my brain needed to “see” the entire the year and how the pieces moved and worked together to create the cohesive whole of the year.  This is just a template so it is completely editable to suit teachers’ needs.  Just this summer, I added a line under warm-up for vocal warm-up.  I also started hyperlinking specific files for lessons and activities into the spreadsheet so I could open them with just a click rather than searching through wherever I saved it.  (That part is still a work in progress though).

For more on my lesson planning on this document, click HERE.


2. Music Connections Bulletin Board Kit

Classroom Tour: music connections


I know.  I’ve blogged about this so many times, my long-time readers are probably getting sick of it.  I just believe it is SO important for our students, parents, coworkers and administrators to realize the connections between music and other subjects.  I won’t even start on the “Music is an important subject in it’s own right” speech because, obviously, I feel this way.  I’ve just spent so much time advocating for music and, I have a feeling, it’s the nature of the beast.

Anyway, this bulletin board is the first to go up every and it is right at my front door.  Anyone who walk in is bombarded with information and, hopefully, they’ll get at least a snippet to take with them.

For more information and specifics about each subject matter poster, click HERE.


3. Keys to Musical Success

Keys to Musical Success


This another one I’ve blogged about several times but it’s one that starts the year off right.  Each class has their own keyboard and the behaviors listed above are assessed each class period.  When students have earned all thirty keys on the keyboard, they earn a “celebration” which could be anything from choosing their seat to playing a game.  For more info on this specific product, click HERE.

4. Listening Clip-Art by EduClips

Screen Shot 2014-08-03 at 6.53.49 PM

I love clip-art…..seriously, clip-art and digital scrapbooking supplies have become my new love.  I especially love this set by Educlips.  I plan to use it with my kinders and Pre-K students to discuss active listening and behavior expectations.  Even just the individual images on a slide or printed are a huge resource (though I intend to do more than that with it).

Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed Products for Prep and I hope to see you at Aileen’s Miracle’s page for more awesome ideas to start the school year off right.


Thanks for reading!

Name for blog

Resources Every Teacher Needs to Know About

Good morning,

I just wanted to take the time to share with you a fabulous resource called SimpleK12.

This past year, my list of completed Professional Development was much shorter than my colleagues.  MOST of that is because of the lack of music specific PD out there through the obvious channels (like the district or region).  As the only elementary music teacher in the district, it doesn’t make sense to bring in someone specifically for my content area.  Even my region which is one of the biggest in the Lone Star state doesn’t offer PD specifically for music educators.  I go to the annual music conferences and I’ve looked into further training in specific methods but they all cost money whereas the district and region courses don’t.  Even technology courses that are offered are geared more towards the basics.  Finally, I don’t like to be out of my classroom unless absolutely necessary.

This is where SimpleK12 comes in.

Now, there really isn’t anything that I’ve found that is music specific but I’m hoping that changes as more music teachers join the community.  The two biggest perks of SimpleK12 (in my opinion) are PD wherever you want (on the go, conference period, wherever the need or mood strikes) and technology information from experts in the field that I can tailor to my skill set.  I’m a pretty technologically advanced teacher and I have different learning needs than a beginner.  SimpleK12 allows users to learn at their own pace and create a tailored PD portfolio for their needs and ability.

For more info, check out below!



Do you want to …

* Learn about the latest technologies helping other teachers excel?

* Join discussions with other educators about implementing new standards?
* Stay in tune with what matters most in today’s schools?
* Feel up-to-speed on the “latest and greatest” strategies and tools?

If you answered YES to any of the above, join me inside the hottest education resource: SimpleK12’s Teacher Learning Community.
==> Create a FREE Basic Membership Today.
SimpleK12, the leading provider of 21st century teacher professional development, brings the fun, energy, and excitement back into learning.

200,000+ educators from around the world have access to SimpleK12’s PD resources, information, and training … and you can too!

Take learning into your own hands and explore the fastest-growing social network and Professional Development community for educators…

==> Create a FREE Basic Membership.

I look forward to seeing you inside the Community!

Name for blog

Dazzling Discipline

Dazzling Discipline

Aileen Miracle from Mrs. Miracle’s Music Room is hosting a linky party about discipline strategies in the music room!  I’m linking up and adding some approaches that I’ve used successfully in my classroom.

dazzling discipline 1

High Expectations

          I believe a teacher needs to have high expectations in their classroom.  Although I’m far from perfecting my management plan, I consider myself a good classroom manager.  Yes, I make mistakes and frequently wish I’d done something different in a situation but, every year, I strive to improve and grow.

          If we have low expectations for our students, they will meet them but is that really the goal?

          I have worked in all kinds of situations at the elementary level.  From poverty to wealth, from neglectful to helicopter parents, across language barriers and learning capabilities, I have been there.  The thing that must remain is our expectations for our students.  It’s like in “Field of Dreams.” “If you build it, they will come.”  If you expect it, they will rise.

          The college professor for my one (yes, 1) course on elementary music told us to only have 3-5 rules in our classroom.  I did that my first year.  The next year I went all philosophical and went with The One Rule (which was respect).  Then I did the Respect X 3 (Respect the property of everyone, Respect others, Respect yourself).  I finally settled on the 12 Rules of Music which is pretty much the opposite of what any educational guru will tell you but whatevs.  It has worked for me because I get to spell out EXACTLY what I want from my students instead of giving them a vague understanding of the classroom expectations.

Click Photo for More!

          As you can see, I have some random rules and we sing them to the 12 Days of Christmas the first week of school.  I keep this bulletin board up all year so students can be reminded.

          Again, no one recommends this but, I’m such a spaz, it works for me.  I NEED a rule that says random sounds are off or else I will be completely distracted. ;)

          As I’m writing this, I’m wondering if I should have put this at the end because it sums up the others.  It sounds so vague to have high expectations for your students.  Duh, Cara.  Of course I have high expectations.  What exactly do you mean?

          I guess, I’m trying to say that, we are creating the next generation.  Yes, their parents are raising them but every adult a child comes in contact with forms a piece of that child.  They are our legacy and we don’t know which child it may be that carries a piece of us with them forever.  We are tasked with teaching our curriculum but also creating the whole person.  Teachers, parents, specialists, etc are all shareholders in the life of each individual child.  We all have immense workloads and schedules.  We all have good days and bad days but we’re teachers.  We chose to make the world a better place through educating the future.

          Wow, that may have gotten out of hand.  Oh well, maybe I should add: passion to my lists of musts for good discipline.  If you’re selling it, they’ll buy in.

dazzling discipline 2

Practice Procedures

I want my students to enter the room quietly and begin their opening marching activity.  After the marching activity, I want them to quietly find their assigned seats on the risers.  I can give that instruction and lay it out there but that doesn’t mean it is going to happen.

Procedures must be taught just like your content.  If my essential question is “Students can enter the room quietly,” I need to explore how I am going to get that result.  Have students define what quietly is and isn’t.  How do they enter the room (in a line, in a herd)?  If in a line, what does that line look like (single file, shaped like a snake)?  Is there another time they may use that same procedure (relating it to their world)?  What do they do before they enter the room quietly?  What do they do after?  On a side note: I sometimes demonstrate inappropriate behavior to crack the kids up.  I over-exaggerate the mistakes but they get the idea.

After you have mapped out the exact procedure you want your students to do, have them PRACTICE it just like you would with a content strand.  Yes, practice having them leave and enter your classroom.  It may seem silly but, if you see your students once a week, they are not going to remember that you told them to enter the classroom quietly.  It needs to become automatic.  They enter the classroom quietly because that is what is expected and routine.

Now, the thing about procedures is that teaching them is the easy part.  Yeah, it takes up class time at the beginning of the school year, but, trust me, it’s well worth it.  The hardest thing about procedures (especially when we don’t see our students every day) is being diligent about students doing things the way they were taught/expected to do.  I want my students to enter the classroom quietly but they are loud and rambunctious outside my door.  Well then, I wait.  It doesn’t long for them to get the hint.  If the students enter the classroom talking, send them back out to try again.  They obviously need the practice and that is what I tell them.  If they are not doing the expectation, they must need practice.

But Cara!  If I wait on them to get quiet, I’ll lose instructional time.  Yes, that is a consequence of their behavior.  Remember, this is your classroom.  You are the one in control.  Do not let the children’s behavior be in control of your classroom because, if you give in on things like entering the room quietly, you will lose the bigger battles ahead.  They will push the boundaries.  It is up to you to create the environment where that will not be tolerated.  Losing instructional time at the beginning is way better than constantly repeating yourself and reminding students of the preferred behavior.  I say preferred because, if you’re not enforcing it, it’s not going to be the routine.

Back to the loss of instructional time, lessons usually have multiple parts.  If students come in late due to behavior, I alter the lesson accordingly.  If there was a dance or game, that’s what gets cut.  We talk about it at the end of class. “Why did we not get to do the entire lesson and the game that went with our learning?” “Because we didn’t enter the room quietly.”  “What can we do next time so that we can avoid this happening again?”  “Enter the room quietly”  Of course, I don’t let it end there.  We re-discuss all of the aspects of that procedure just like at the beginning.  At the beginning of the next class, I’ll remind them of the expectation.

For specific procedures I use in my classroom, go to my post on Terrific Transitions.


dazzling discipline 3

Structure & Organization

What do your children see when they enter your classroom?  Do they get right to work on a planned activity or are they sitting idly while the lesson materials are being prepared?  Can your students easily find materials they need or are they constantly asking where the pencils are located?  Do your students have assigned seats or requirements for a seat of their choosing?  All of these seemingly simple things can make a huge difference in your classroom environment.

Chaos is not conducive to learning but, unfortunately, as music teachers, our creative side sometimes interferes with our ability to stay organized and structured.  Some people prefer to have music be a more unstructured class but I disagree.  Children can still explore if there are structural limits.  I have a very structured classroom (for a music teacher at least) but it’s because, contrary to my creative music side, I’m a very straightforward, analytical person in my job.

I have always used a seating chart.  I like the control of knowing where each child is going to sit/stand/sing.  I like the ability to separate possible problems before they occur.  As my situation has changed, the seating chart has changed.  I’ve had risers, chairs, carpets, stars on the ceiling; you make it work.

This year, I used iDoceo for both my seating chart and a grade book.  My district uses a specific program/host for gradebook but I don’t enter EVERYTHING in there for many reasons.  The format doesn’t make sense for music and most of the data is just for me anyway.  I grade on participation only not skill assessment so why have that in the official gradebook.

Anyway, what I like about iDoceo is the ability to move children as needed (I had previously used an excel spread sheet and it was quite a pain to reformat it at times) and associate a picture with them.  Unfortunately, due to confidentiality, I can not show specific images of what I did this year so these images came from the iDoceo website.


Now, this is obviously basic rows but I was able to put students as my risers were formatted.  If I needed to move a student, I could just move their avatar without having to delete and retype like in previous documents I had used.  Plus, their information traveled with them as they moved from seat to seat in the room.


I also like that you can add pictures, video, notes, and attachments to iDoceo to document everything that goes with each individual child.  You can also take attendance which I don’t have to do but I choose to do for documentation purposes.  Texas recently passed HB8 which limits the amount of time students can be pulled from the arts for remediation.  It can not exceed 10% without parent approval and I strive to be a diligent record keeper.


I don’t even use all the features of the app but it is well worth the $6.99 price point in my opinion.  It also has a diary/planner option as well as a schedule. I prefer Google for my calendar but that’s so I can sync and access it anywhere since I have multiple devices.



dazzling discipline 4

 Observing and Publicizing the Positive

I do a lot of watching and instead of saying “Coco is doing a great job,” I might say “Coco is picking up all of the trash that was left on the floor.”  It is very fact based rather than opinion.  “Great” is arbitrary.  It is meaningless without student buy-in.  Statements also take the motivation away from trying to please the teacher specifically.  It puts the action back on the student.  Instead of them remembering they did a good job in my opinion, they remember that they helped others by picking up the trash.

Our students are taught to give “I” messages in conflict resolution.  We, as teachers, model those “I” messages as well so another phrase I might say is, “I appreciate how Bobby is raising his hand to get my attention” or “I see that Joey is sitting criss cross on the carpet”  Again, it is factual.  It is precise.  It also reminds the other students of the behavior that is desired.

Class Dojo is a tool I use to give precise feedback.  Teachers can sign up for a free account, input their students, and customize desired behaviors.  Students receive points for various activities and you can weight different behaviors with different values.  Below are the behaviors I used for 2nd-6th Grade.  I projected the class screen for students to see and could give points with the companion app on my iPad.  That way, I am not tethered to the front of the classroom.  (More on teaching un-tethered to come!)  Obviously, I can’t have the screen up during the entire lesson but I could still give points via my iPad and the students would know when (because it “ding-ed”).  They just wouldn’t know who but that made it more fun after the lesson.  class dojo


class dojo


When students reached 25 points, they earned a prize or a privilege.  The privilege works best with the older students (4th+) and I used things such as sit with a friend, free iPad time during our intro activity, etc.  I did the prize with the little ones but am looking into other things as well instead something tangible.  I keep my prizes in the Smarty Pants.

See them by the door!

See them by the door!


Another tool I use is something I created about five years ago.  It is called the Keys to Musical Success and it is available in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store if you are interested.  At the end of class, students assess themselves on five behaviors (that encompass many others but these are spelled out).  You can see the behaviors below.  I do emphasize the entering and leaving on this assessment because I want to start and end on a positive note.  We go through each behavior together and decide if that “key” was earned for the day.  I do add my own input and remind students of anything that happened in class but I try to leave it up to them as much as possible so they will take ownership of their behavior.  The classroom teachers are usually really good and will ask the students how many keys they earned for the day.

I laminate these so I can color in the keys with a dry erase marker and reuse them.  Once students have filled in the keys, they earn a celebration.  I use the word “celebration” because we are celebrating the group’s efforts.  A celebration might be singing game they love to play or a just dance video after the lesson.  If it’s nice outside, I’ll let them play a music game behind my building.  For more information about the Keys to Musical Success specifically, click on the image below to read more about it.

Click image to go to Blog Post

Click image to go to Blog Post

The Keys to Musical Success facilitate whole group behavior observation like Class Dojo facilitates the individual.  Both of these tools also provide data.  A teacher asks how a student behaves in your class; you have the data there to tell you.  An administrator asks how a teacher’s class compares to another behavior-wise, you have that data about their behavior on a daily basis (how often they fill it up, the average number of keys they earn as a class)  It also shows students how they compare with other classes because they see the different charts in my classroom.

dazzling discipline

Enforcing the Consequences

I know.  This isn’t fun.

Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world and there will always be students that will push our buttons and cause problems.  Even the best classroom manager isn’t immune to those experiences.

The main thing is: If you have a consequence, enforce it.  One of my classes of first graders this year was extremely difficult.  Class Dojo didn’t work for them so I didn’t bother.  Instead, I used an old faithful: writing names on the board.  If a student got their name on the board, they knew they had a warning.  If they earned a check, they sat in time-out for 7 minutes (I base time-out on the student’s age).  If they earned a second check, I wrote in their behavior folder.  Some teachers brought the folder bag to specials.  Some students had to return later in the day for me to write in it.  Tears have no effect on me.  They had their warning and their in-class consequence.  That apparently did not work.  Their behavior folder is supposed to be signed on a daily basis and effects their citizenship grade in their homeroom.

I mentioned that tears have no effect on me.  I don’t have a heart of stone but I want my students to know that tears can not erase the negative behaviors that occurred.  Real life has consequences.  Like I mentioned before, we are creating the next generation and it is in our best interest to teach cause and effect rather than wishy-washy discipline.

If I write in their behavior folder more than two or three times in a grading period, something else must be done.  Obviously, there is a bigger problem.  As fellow shareholders, that is the point you need to call the parent.  I know, it’s not fun but it is our responsibility to remedy the problem so that the student can be as successful as possible.  Now, if you go in guns a-blazing “your child did this or that,” you will hit a brick wall of a parent protecting their cub.  However, you come in from the standpoint of “I am concerned about how this behavior that I am seeing is effecting his/her learning” and “I want your son/daughter to be as successful as possible,” you will see a partner in the situation.

Finally, if you threaten it, do it.  Don’t threaten something you can’t deliver on or else they will learn that what you say regarding behavior is meaningless.  Remain calm, factual, and in control.  It is your classroom.


Well, I hope that makes sense.  I stray sometimes when I get particularly fiery about a subject but I tried to stay on point with this one.  If you have any questions or comments or just want a listening ear regarding a situation on your campus, I’ll be more than happy to oblige.  You can email me at miscellaneouscara (at) gmail (dot) come or comment on this post below.   I hope you have a wonderful summer and good luck!

Thanks for reading!

Name for blog

Perfect Poolside Planning: Stop #2

Perfect Poolside Planning

Slide15Hello Friends!

For those of you who don’t know me:

My name is Cara and I teach PK-6th Grade Music on an Air Force Base in Texas.  This week concluded my eighth year of teaching and third at my current school.  Please consider signing up to follow the blog for more updates and ideas for your music program.  My Teachers Pay Teachers Store is up and running and there are lots of goodies there.  My FB page is also a great place to get info on upcoming sales, freebies, and new items in the store.

For this hop, the topic is planning and, if you’re anything like me, you spend most of the summer planning for the upcoming year.  If you limit your planning time, congrats!  I wish I could let go enough and relax.  I spoke to a coworker on Wednesday who said he is very protective of his free time/family time.

This thing is, though, I ABSOLUTELY love what I do.  I LOVE figuring out the BEST way/time/order/method to teach something musical.  Now, not everyday is super exciting and I definitely have my less-than-perky moments but I consider myself lucky to have a career where I can express myself creatively and give others the opportunity to do so.  Disclaimer: it’s the last day of school as I’m writing this and I don’t have students today.  If you had asked me last week, I probably would have had a grumpy answer.  Ha!

Okay!  On with the information!

(another) DISCLAIMER: I am be no means an expert at planning or music education for that matter.  Although I consider myself a quality teacher, I still have a lot to learn and am always striving to be better.

With that said:

Texas has adopted new TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) for music.  They don’t technically go into effect until the fall of 2015 but why postpone the inevitable.  I’m actually really excited about some of the additions to the standards.

The FIRST thing I did was align those standards in a format I could understand.  The TEA site has them in paragraph form but I wanted to digest that information into a timeline so I could see how skills grow from year to year.

This is the product of that.  Beware: there may be typos.  I didn’t originally intend for this to be seen.  It’s just how my brain works.

New TEKS 1

Screen Shot 2014-06-06 at 8.27.22 AM

Screen Shot 2014-06-06 at 8.27.35 AMI know that is tiny text.  Hopefully, if you click on it, it will open a window with JUST that and hopefully enlarged so you can see it better.  If I’m extra productive, I will turn into a download for y’all.

As you can see, I split up the sections and then each standard got it’s own box on the spreadsheet (I love Excel!) so I could see how the standards correlate to each other through the elementary grade levels.

From there, I took the skills that each grade should learn/know and created a more specific scope and sequence.  I split up skills based on bigger concepts such as pitch, rhythm, improvisation, etc.

Screen Shot 2014-06-06 at 8.26.12 AM


Screen Shot 2014-06-06 at 8.26.36 AM

Screen Shot 2014-06-06 at 8.26.50 AMNote: there ARE skills that are not completely aligned to the TEKS.  I know!  How dare I?  But, I truly believe that the TEKS should be the launching point NOT the pinnacle so some skills that should be learned in one grade may be earlier (if that’s what I prefer according to my understanding and experience).  Again, I am by no means an expert and this changes every year (regardless of the change in TEKS).  Also, there really are no Pre-K standards in music other than “students will participate in classroom activities” so I am in the process of creating those standards myself.

Sometimes, I don’t get to everything.  This year, I saw my students twice a week for thirty minutes in groups of 30-45.  I had to deal with teachers wanting to pull students for testing, remediation, and punishment.  Even though the law is my side (yay Texas!), it was still a constant battle for time.  I did the math and I get 4% of the instructional week.  I am very protective of my 4%.  Even so, we did not get to everything.  Pre-K and Kinder did and 1st was very close but 2nd+ has been a struggle to keep up with.  I could blame it on a lot of things: my predecessor, the constant mobility of the student population, pull-outs…..but it all comes back to time.  Yes, we didn’t get to everything this year but we used our time wisely and worked hard.  That’s something to be proud of.

Now, to take the skills I want to teach packaged into concept bundles and put them in a cohesive order.

My first year at LISD, I was asked to divide the year by four and type in the concepts I would teach during that time for each grade level.  It seriously was an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper with four boxes.  That didn’t work for me.  Like I mentioned earlier, the paragraph form does nothing for my brain. So, I created a Year-At-A-Glance that fits my brain better.

Screen Shot 2014-06-06 at 8.31.16 AMScreen Shot 2014-06-06 at 8.31.29 AM

I have a page like this for every grade level and it stretches from August until May.  Each column represents a week.  As you can see, each row is explained on how I use it.  I always over-plan because it is better to have too much to do than too little and be scrambling.

Here is what it looks like filled in:

Screen Shot 2014-06-06 at 8.29.45 AMI TRY to put the resources on there in case I forgot but, like I said before, I’m a work in progress.

Here is a different grade and time:

Screen Shot 2014-06-06 at 8.30.03 AM

I know that’s a lot of data on one page but, if ANYONE walks and wants to know what we’re doing and why, I have that documentation.  I have the planning pieces I need plus the rhetoric of education.  I’ve been using the form as my sole means of lesson planning this year and it’s really been nice.  My district does not require specialists to put their lesson plans in a specific form/location that the general education teachers do.

Cara, How do you keep track of who has learned what?

I have several sections of each grade level.  Since I’ve been doing double classes this year, I only have two sections of grades 2-6 but Pre-K-1st is multiples.

Here is an example sheet of how I keep track.  I have four Pre-K classes that I see each week.

Screen Shot 2014-06-06 at 8.29.16 AM

I don’t put all the details but I list the activities we do and mark it under the teacher’s name if we got to it.  Then I can see who got to what and if anything needs to be caught up on the next week.  Like I mentioned earlier, I over-plan so I know not everything is going to get done.  I can also look for patterns like Montanio’s class hasn’t gotten through the entire lesson in several weeks.  Is that a timing issue (late or early) or a behavior issue?  Does it need to be addressed?  Is it effecting the overall student learning?  I can also see what items didn’t work like the Twinkle Twinkle Little Star Dance.  I didn’t try it for Heineman’s class but did for Montanio’s.  It didn’t work so I just skipped it the rest of the week.  I know, for next year, to take that out completely or replace it with something else.  Some of you might be able to remember little stuff like that but I can’t.  I have too much going through my brain at any given time to remember that a link didn’t work from day to day.  Ha!

IF you do need to see an individual lesson plan instead of the whole year madness, I sometimes use this plan.  Specifically, I used it for my evaluation because my administrator probably wouldn’t have been able to figure out the year-long chart and I wouldn’t want to print it.  It’s a beast.

Screen Shot 2014-06-06 at 8.24.49 AM

As you can see, I’ve taken the rows of the Year-At-a-Glance and made the columns more detailed to only reflect the learning of each week.  This is very administrator friendly (for those of us who are observed by admins who’ve never taught music) because they can see the WHY to everything we are doing.  Is it tedious?  Absolutely! But, I’m not only a music teacher and I’m the advocate for music education in my district (it’s a no-paying, no respect position).  My administrators are wonderful and supportive but they have a whole campus to manage.  Anything I can do to educate other teachers and administrators about the value of what we’re doing in the music classroom is worth it.

Although, I have been called TOO-PASSIONATE because it’s only music……it is what it is……

Okay, how we doing?  Are you exhausted yet?  Are you still with me?  Good!

Just for my readers of this hop:  You can get the Year-At-A-Glance FREE by clicking HERE!  Beware! The link expires on Monday (June 9th) whenever I get up (central time).

If you miss the free download, you can also get it at my TpT Store.

Are you ready for the next stop?

Thanks for reading!

Name for blog



Cara 2



Classroom Organization

I’ll admit it!  I’m a slob…… home.  At school, everything has a place and everything in it’s place.  Even the custodians have complimented the cleanliness of my classroom. :)

I like the max amount of space to be used for classroom activities so anything that can be put away or stored is.  All of the keyboard instruments and smaller drums are stored underneath the risers.  My mother made the curtains!

Classroom Organization


This is the other side of the classroom.  I label the cabinets so students can easily find and put away items.  Mallets get three drawers so students can put them away WHERE THEY GO.  In my experience, they are more likely to do something (like clean-up) if it’s easy to do OR ingrained into them.  Ha!

Kleenex, first aid, clean-up supplies, headphones……everything in it’s place…..


Classroom instrument


This is my teaching area behind the piano.


classroom organization


Classroom Organization

classroom organization

I’m linking up to Mrs. King’s Music Room End-Of-Year Linky Party!

Thanks for reading!

Name for blog

Listening to…..

Sometimes I like a song but I don’t like the singer.  Sometimes I like a song but I hear a cover that I like better.  I know! Some people HATE covers but not me.  So, for your listening pleasure:


1.) Fun Fact! I love ballads.  I always have.  My brother used to joke about my taste in music because I always liked to listen (and, yes perform) songs that were powerful and emotional.  Even Dr. Belshaw chastised me for turning a sweet lullaby by Brahms into a power ballad!

“Let it Go” from Frozen is such a great song and so empowering but what I’m REALLY loving is this cover/mash-up by Sam Tsui.  He takes “Let it Go” and “Let Her Go” by Passenger (which although title similar are not style similar) and makes something beautiful.  Check it!

2.) My sister told me I should listen to this song “Say Something” she heard on the radio.  I listened.  I liked.  I sang along.

However, when I heard the Pentatonix version of this song.  I fell in absolute love.  Plus, dude beat boxes while playing the cello!  That’s just cool!

3.) I am not ashamed.  “Wrecking Ball” is a good song.  I’m just not a fan of Miley…..or choices……

I like this version better.

4.) DISCLAIMERS: I don’t think this version is better than the Beatles. I’m not a GLEEK.

I will say this version is absolutely beautiful. If you know anything about the episode, Kurt’s father is in the hospital and his recovery is kind of up in the air.  I lost my father five years ago and this cover with this perspective really touched me.

I don’t know why it has Spanish subtitles.


Thanks for reading!

Name for blog

Reflections on the 2013-2014 School Year

Good evening, Friends.

I sit here writing this post with 9 days left school (10 including the staff workday).  In those nine days, I have a bowling field trip, a pizza field trip, 4 Pre-Kindergarten performances, and 1 6th Grade Promotion Ceremony.  Suffice it to say, it’s going to be a busy two weeks.  Plus, I won symphony tickets at the Retiree Event (no, I’m not retiring, WAY too young) and that is on the evening of the teacher workday.

Even though the year is not quite wrapped up, I wanted to share some reflections on this past school year with you, my readers, fellow music teachers, and friends.

1.) This year closes my eighth year of teaching total and my third at LISD.  Since three years is the max I’ve EVER spent in a school district, next year will equal the longest I’ve ever stayed in one position.  Could it be that I finally found the perfect place to work?  Haha, no…..but I did find a place where the arts are appreciated (not to my liking for now but not on the chopping block either) and I can create the program I want. cara's classroom 2012 layout

The opportunity did arise for me to leave and apply for a job closer to my family but, upon examination of the “perks” and direction I want my career to take, I chose to stay where I am.  Whenever I get cranky or whiny, I remind myself that “I chose this.”  It is quite empowering.

2.) In the district before I came to LISD, I taught at two campuses.  One of those was bilingual.  I did not even know that one of the campuses was bilingual until AFTER I had already gotten the job.  It never came up in the interview process!

I don’t speak Spanish.  I took four (yes, four) semesters of Spanish in college and, my friends can attest, I am quite horrible at foreign language.  I have never struggled in school as much as I struggled in Spanish class.  It was embarrassing.  I was even a vocalist in college and sung in several foreign languages but I’ve always struggled with it.  Truth be told, I can barely use the English language correctly all the time.  I have a theory that I have a audio processing disorder because I can hear (volume-wise) what people are saying but I can’t always understand it.  In Spanish class, I could figure it out if I was able to read it but would fail miserably when the professor would try to converse with me.  There is an app called Duolingo that I’m using even now to work on my Spanish.

ANYWAY, this year’s language barrier got even wider and more diverse than working in that bilingual school.  We had two students come to us from Saudi Arabia!  Arabic is crazy different than English (I know!  Duh!).  Different alphabet, different symbols, different direction, It’s all different.  Plus, music education isn’t really a thing there so I had a 2nd grader and a 6th grader coming in knowing NOTHING.  I gave both of them a first grade assessment that I poorly translated into arabic and it was a mess.  Luckily, they are wonderful, hard-working kiddos and they have not let the language barrier be an issue.  The eldest student and I can even converse in English (we used to have to sit next to each other in silence while we typed in Google Translate on our iPads.)

After working through that language barrier, I feel I can do anything (Which is good since I work on a military installation where we get non-English speakers frequently)!

3.) I did it.  I finally opened my Teachers Pay Teachers Store!

teachers pay teachers miscellaneous me cara

I have been working on this blog for four years and have been creating for my classroom for much longer.  It is wonderful to, not only have a place to share my creations with others that may find them helpful but, to make some extra money to fund my habit.  Plus, the community of teachers I’ve been introduced to is such a help.  I can go to them and bounce ideas off them and see what others are doing.  As the LONELY ONLY in the district, that community is cherished.

4.) My district has been under construction this entire year.  It technically started two years ago but nothing really happened until last year.  All students 2nd+ have been eating lunch in the high school cafeteria while PK-1st grade has been eating in an area called the Eagle’s Nest which is barely holds one grade level at a time.  We have no elementary gym at all this year.  Sometimes, the students can use the high school gym (when there are no classes or practices) and, weather permitting, students can walk next door to the youth center and use their gym.  Well, guess where the only two stages in the entire district were……..yep, the elementary cafeteria and the elementary gym.  Neither the high school gym nor the high school cafeteria have a stage.  They are building an auditorium but it will be several months before it is ready.


You know where I had my programs this year?  I didn’t.

Nope, not a single grade level program was to be had this year.  I went in with all these fancy plans in August and was completely shot down when reminded there was no stage.  It’s been weird to not do programs at but kind of refreshing too.  We were able to focus on curriculum all year long.  Of course, next year, the programs are coming back full force and I am big believer in performances (from an advocacy/community standpoint as well as an assessment).  It’s been a nice break though.

NOTE: yes, I have four pre-k performances next week but they are individual class performances which we do every year in a room called the eye-max (a little theatre that holds about 100 people max).

5.) This year was a year of change in my living situation.  I moved, which happens frequently when you’re single and looking for the best deal for your needs without planting roots.  The main thing is: I moved to a place I could have Coco.


Coco is my five year old black lab who I absolutely adore.  She is currently asleep near the foot of the bed while I type this.


She lived with my mother for two years because my apartment was too small and had a very strict pet policy.  My new place (well new 11 months ago) has a dog park, a doggie spa, walking paths, and lots of nature.  It has made a HUGE difference in my mental state to have her with me.  I was so lonely before.  I would go home and be alone (which for introvert Cara, isn’t a bad thing but not healthy in excess).  Now, I go home to a wagging tale waiting to play.  Some days I’m tired but I make the effort.

coco Screen Shot 2014-05-26 at 9.38.06 PM

She LOVES to cuddle so I can still get my rest/quiet time in.  My family realized I haven’t come back “home” as frequently since she’s been living with me and, it’s true.  Having her with me makes all the difference in the world.


Looking Forward:

Next year is going to be a busy year.  Besides my responsibility of providing a quality music education to every student Pre-K through 6th Grade, I am adding back in musical performances for every grade level.  I’ve done that before, no big deal but, I’m keeping my store going (because I love it!) and adding other responsibilities to my plate.

This year, I ran the after-school news crew.  We did interviews and stories from around campus and submitted them to the morning news team to air on their morning news cast.  It is completely run by students with sponsor supervision/help.  Next year, I will be the sponsor supervisor.  I’ll choose a whole new batch of kids, teach them the ropes (after I learn them myself) and make sure they put on a good newscast…..every day……at 7am……every day……

I’m also doing the yearbook next year!  I think it will be fine.  I’ve never done a yearbook before but I have bought many a yearbook.  I know that’s not the same.

This summer (not really next year but oh well), I’m working as part of team to redesign the district and campus web pages.  That should be interesting and I’ll get some good experience working with the technology department.

Finally (and this is close to my heart), I HOPE to be presenting next year at a convention.  I put in my proposals and will hear back in late summer.  It’s been on my mind for a couple years now.  I did a PD last August for just my campus and it was successful.  I want to branch out.  I really have a passion for helping and teaching teachers.  I love working with the kids.  Of course I do!  But, being the weirdo that I am, I see things that others don’t/can’t and I love to share that.  I love to learn and experiment.  Even today, I’ve been sick and in bed the majority of the day but I hated just laying there so I watched a webinar on paperless classrooms, did a Duolingo lesson, and wrote this blog post.  Granted that’s not super difficult work but I am ill.

Anyway, if you’ve gotten this far, I applaud you for your patience.  :)  This year has been great but I’m definitely ready to turn the page on this year and begin afresh.


I’m linking up at Making Moments Matter if you want to enjoy the reflections of fellow music teachers across the globe.

Thanks for reading!

Name for blog



Peek at the Week Template Kits

I’ve blogged about my Peek at the Week before.  I use it to communicate with colleagues, administration, and parents about what we are working on in music.

Peek at the Week 9/23

Our school is fortunate to have a weekly newsletter that is sent via email to all staff and parents so I can include a full color copy of my Peek at the Week and communicate that information.  I also post a copy on my school website.  It’s just a quick and easy visual for others to see what it is exactly we do in the music room.

I have created template sets so that my fellow teachers can easily create their own “Peek at the Week.”    There are four kits so teachers can customize to suit their needs.  They are based on the four different schedules/situations I’ve had in my career (which is a lot for 8 years of teaching.)

First, these grades are my current responsibility.

Peek at the Week Template: PreKindergarten-6th Grade.  Click Image to Go to Store.

Peek at the Week Template: PreKindergarten-6th Grade. Click Image to Go to Store.

This was my grade level span from my first three years of teaching.

Peek at the Week: Kindergarten- 6th Grade.  Click image to go to store.

Peek at the Week: Kindergarten- 6th Grade. Click image to go to store.

My second job was at two schools, one with Pre-K and one without, and they only went up to fifth grade.  Sixth grade was in middle school.

Peek at the Week: PreKindergarten- 5th Grade. Click image to go to Store

Peek at the Week: PreKindergarten- 5th Grade. Click image to go to Store

Peek at the Week: Kindergarten-5th Grade. Click image to go to Store.

Peek at the Week: Kindergarten-5th Grade. Click image to go to Store.

Each of the templates is available in the following file formats: pptx, ppt, and pdf. Each template is also available WITH and WITHOUT textboxes for easy editing.  There is also an example of one of mine filled in included.  Total 469 pages!

Each kit comes with 78 templates.  36 templates are holiday/season specific (Back to School, Fall, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Winter, Spring, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, and Summer).  The other 42 templates are color and pattern assorted so teachers can pick and choose what fits best in their environment.

Here is a sampling of some of the templates.

Peek at the Week Template

Peek at the Week


Peek at the Week

Peek at the Week

Peek at the Week

Peek at the Week

Peek at the Week

Peek at the Week

Peek at the Week

Peek at the Week

Peek at the Week

Click HERE to go to my store!

Thanks for reading!

Name for blog


Terrific Transitions

Originally posted on :

Little Miss Kindergarten is hosting a Linky Party for Terrific Transitions.  Click HERE to see more great ideas on transitions for your classroom!

I have to say, I have become a master at transitions.  Of course, when you only have kids for 30-45 minutes once a week, a lot of time will be wasted if there is even a question of what is expected.  We practice these transitions until they can practically do them with their eyes closed.  I may change it up every now and again just for fun but the expectation is always there.

I will also say that NONE of these ideas are original.  Even the closest ones are rooted in someone’s genius.  I’m just sharing what works for me in my experience.

Transition #1: Moving from Marching/dancing around the room to assigned seats

Upon entering the classroom, the students start marching.  A former colleague of mine…

View original 1,088 more words