Effectively Managing the 1:1 iPad Music Room

Effectively ManagingThe other presentation I did at TMEA/TI:ME 2015 was the one above.  If you missed the presentation slides for Teaching Untethered, click HERE.  I was very excited to give this presentation because management and organization are definitely my strong qualities.  Plus, there seem to be a lot of presentations about apps and programs to use but not a lot on the actual use of them in a typical classroom.



What is the point?  Why implement technology in your classroom?

The role of technology is to ENHANCE, not replace, teaching and learning.  Effective teaching can not be replaced by technology (no matter what _________________ (insert big business claiming to know what is best for education without any actual experience here).  Pah-hah-hah!

Technology is a tool; not a reward.  It is so heartbreaking to see these fantastic devices being used solely by students when they finish their work.  Powerful tools in education reduced to a gameboy.

Technology is not the end-all-be-all.  It doesn’t have to permeate every facet of your classroom to be effective.  It is a tool; not your curriculum.



Starting off “Things to Know/Do Before Getting iPads,” is Logistics.  How is it going to go down? Are you going to get a class set, a small group set, or one?  Are you going to have them all the time or do you have to share/check out?

Next, we have Infrastructure.  What are the capabilities of the network at your school?  The day that my district was told to update the iOS on our devices, no one could get anything downloaded because the network couldn’t handle everyone updating at the same time.  Another facet of infrastructure is connectivity.  How are students going to get onto the wireless network?  I’ll tell you, trying to log into the network on 22 devices because the kids don’t have their own logins and/or the network kicks everyone off the wifi at intervals that I couldn’t quite figure out is incredibly frustrating.

Onto to Funding.  Although there are a lot of awesome free apps, there will come a time when a paid app catches your eye.  What is the procedure for purchasing apps?  Apple has Volume Purchasing for Schools.  Does your campus technology team know about that?  What are the purchasing procedures?  Do you go through your campus principal or the technology department?  Does funding for apps come out of your classroom budget (which, for some, in no much if anything).

Regarding Security, when you put a wifi-connected iPad in a child’s hands, you are opening a proverbial can of worms if you don’t have security measures and procedures in place to protect yourself and your students.  Hopefully, your district tech team will have measures in place but that doesn’t negate effective classroom management in regards to these tools.  Have your heard of Guided Access?  It can lock students into an app through Settings but you’re totally going to have to do that through each individual device each time you use it.  What procedures are you going to have in place within your classroom in regards in security?



What are you going to do to store all of these devices?  What kind of cases are available to use?  We use the iGuys for the little ones but they are a beast to get off and on which you have to do to get them in the charging cabinet (seen in the picture above).  Once, I let a 4th grader put cases back on the iPads and she shattered the screen trying to force the iGuy on.  It was a complete accident (she was quite devastated though) but it was an unforeseen issue with the cases.  I prefer having the iPads on a shelf for easy passing out/turning in but that’s just me.  I know other teachers that prefer to have the iPads in student cubbies or stacked on a cabinet.  Where is the best place within your classroom for easy (but not too easy) access?

How do you plan to charge these devices?  The thing with a battery is that it has to be charged……frequently if used a lot.  How are you expected to keep them charged?  Will you have a charging cabinet (they are amazing) or will you be expected to run several chargers on a power strip (I’ve seen it done; it’s not pretty).

Finally (in this segment at least), how are you going to get tech support when you need it?  This is pretty self-explanatory but it’s a good question to know the answer to in your situation.



There are certain things that you need to figure out (for yourself and your situation) when the iPads get into your classroom BEFORE you start putting them in students’ hands.

There are so many awesome apps.  I started drinking the apple juice a long time ago and had my own personal iPad for a couple years before there was even talk about deployment within the district.  However, some of my colleagues had no idea what to do with an iPad even as it was put into their hands.  Do your research for what apps will be appropriate and helpful in your classroom.  There are so many lists rating apps (both free and paid) for every subject.  There are even apps with the function of recommending apps for various subjects in education.  When you find an app you think might be worthy (yes, I said worthy because not all apps are created equal) to be used by your students in your classroom, test-drive it.  Figure out what pitfalls your students may find while using it.  Figure out if it really is effective as an instructional aide in your classroom.  After you test-drive the app, rate it according to it’s usefulness.  Just because it’s cute, doesn’t mean it is effective.  Trust me; there are a ton of adorable apps that I would totally let my nieces (when they were younger, they are not into cutesy anymore) use but that doesn’t mean it is appropriate for me to use class time utilizing.

I mentioned this before but, start small.  Just because the device can hold 50 apps doesn’t mean you need to decide on those 50 apps right this minute. Add as you see fit and/or necessary.

Finally, organize your apps to best suit yours and your students’ needs.  Now that the iPads iOS allows for folders (which has been awhile but that wasn’t the case when I first got one), you can organize your apps based on concept or grade level.  Some teachers really like the use of what’s called a OneScreen which has all of the pertinent apps for students on, literally, one screen.  However, as music teachers with several grade levels, we might need more than one screen (may two or five, or six, whatevs).

I mentioned before about storing the devices in your classroom but this blurb is mostly about organizing the devices within the designated space.  I use Custom Wallpapers like the one in the example above.  The cases have the corresponding number on them so, when cases and iPads are separated, they can go to the mate.  Mine correspond with my seating chart because I want the devices to be assigned.  It is not easy to have assigned iPads but I prefer that level of organization because I think it creates accountability with the students when they know it can be traced back to them.  You might prefer something else so do what is best for your classroom and students.

Headphones/Earbuds are a downright necessity with a class set of iPads, particularly in the music classroom.  Do you want students to bring them own or do you want to purchase a set for your classroom use?  Earbuds are gross when they are shared so I won’t suggest that but a class-set of headphones could be very helpful if you have it in the budget.  Of course, you have to really trust your students (and have the management structure in place) when you give them a screen and headphones.  What kind of headphones will you use?  Those cheap, dollar headphones sure are a simple fix but they won’t last longer than a couple weeks.

Slide10Where will the children sit when they are using the devices?  Will there be any restrictions?  This picture is blurred but, during independent work, I let them pretty much sit wherever in the general vicinity of the classroom (not down the hall or in any corners) with one main restriction: they can not sit with their back against (or their back to) the wall.  This goes back to security because, as teachers, we have the responsibility to be mobile within our classroom and actively monitor our students.  One major way to actively monitor what students are doing on devices is to watch their screens.  To do that, we have to always be able to see their screens.  That’s during independent work.  During group work/guided practice, students have the devices in their laps but, since they sit fairly close together, they can easily monitor each other (and they totally will do this; they LOVE to tattle). Even so, keep a close eye.



If your district does not have a usage contract signed by both the parent and student in place, your must take the initiative to create your own for your classroom.  Make it easy for your students to understand depending on the age group.  Make sure there are clear expectations and consequences.



I’ve already mentioned active monitoring so I won’t harp on it (but it is completely necessary).

Follow through on your consequences.  This isn’t just for technology classroom management.  This goes for all behavior and consequences in your classroom.  If you say it, do it, otherwise, your students can’t trust you and, if they can’t trust you, you won’t be able to effectively teach them.  If a student loses their device, have an instructional back-up plan for what happens next.  I usually have paper versions of anything we do on the iPads.  As I mentioned above, technology enhances the lesson instead of replaces it.  If a student abuses the privilege of the enhancement, they still get the instruction regardless.



If you not currently doing this with all procedures, you should.  Teach procedures as you would any other lesson in your curriculum.  These lessons should not take hours upon hours (hopefully) but effective management is the key to effective instruction.  You can’t teach music/math/science/etc if you don’t have control of your students and classroom.

Practice those procedures like you would do guided practice in your classroom.

Example: You want students to pick up their assigned iPad from the shelf (the example is apparently in my classroom).  Tell the students how you want them to do.  Show them how you want them to do.  Show them how NOT to do it (sometimes I make this quite hilarious but that is probably frowned upon).  Ask for volunteers to demonstrate how to pick up their assigned iPad.  Ask students if there are any questions about picking up their assigned iPad.  Have students practice picking up their iPads in small groups and see if the group can work together to have everyone in their group do it successfully and efficiently.  Time your small groups to see which group can pick up their iPads the quickest while maintaining their success.  Assess your students by asking guided questions about picking up their iPads.

I know that sounds like I’m either crazy or a control freak, however, you will (hopefully) NEVER have to remind students how to pick up their iPads on the shelf again.  In the event that a student “forgets” or the group completely fails one day at picking up their iPads, have the practice it again.  Reteach the procedure as you would any other lesson.  Guess what?  They won’t “forget” again because they know it will be retaught and/or practiced.  Instead of wasting time getting onto your students daily for procedures, use this new-found time to TEACH.  By the way, if this sounds sarcastic or holier-than-thou, I sincerely apologize.  Sometimes my writing has that tone but it is completely unintentional.

Here is a list of procedures you need to teach and practice with your students.  There may be more depending on your situation but this is a good start.


Don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to implement technology in all of your classes.  Pilot in one grade or even one class if you want.  Experiment with your procedures to figure out exactly what works best.


Consider your scope and sequence: don’t just use an app because you think it is cool without any correlation to our curriculum.  Align your iPad objective to the objective in your curriculum.

For example:

Objective: Students will compose a 4 measure, 16 beat pentatonic song in the key of G and then play it on a barred percussion instrument.


Objective Including Technology: Students will use IWriteMusicFree to compose a 4 measure, 16 beat pentatonic song in the key of G and then play it on a barred percussion instrument.

The objective is still basically the same and can be done completely without technology if necessary.  The technology enhances the student’s experience with the objective because, with the app, students will be able to hear their composition before playing it.  That way, they can make sure they like their composition and make sure it sounds good to their ear.  With the ability to hear their composition as they learn to play it, they can make sure they play it correctly because the technology will not have mercy on them.  Also, it frees up the teacher to monitor all of the students instead of constantly having to play their compositions or allow them to practice their mistakes.


Realize it isn’t going to be perfect and have a back-up plan.  If your objectives are closely related, you can easily go back to your initial objective as necessary.  Don’t let a hiccup get you down.



My district uses eBackpack so this decision was pretty much decided for me.  I say pretty much because, even though eBackpack is a district-funded and organized, the students need logins to use it and I don’t have access to that information.  Above is a list of apps/programs similar to eBackpack that have logins and passwords.  Below is a list of other options for workflow.  Slide21

Because eBackpack requires logins and passwords that I don’t have access to, I need back-up plans for getting information to and from the student.  Furthermore, although we are supposed to use eBackpack, not every grade level seriously utilizes it so the students don’t know their logins/passwords or how to use the app.  I use a combination of these resources to exchange information with students.

Final Tips:

Download Apps for yourself.  Don’t give out your iTunes password to students.  It may seem easier to let them download apps but you open up a can of worms by giving them the power to download what they choose.  If you really want the time-saver, go to Settings and enable automatic download on each of your devices.  That way, each app you download using your iTunes account will download onto the devices associated with your account.

Try apps out beforehand. I mentioned this earlier but it merits repeating.

Have a clear objective. Don’t use technology for technology’s sake.

Look for potential pitfalls students may face.  If you know as much about what could go wrong, you won’t be surprised by it.

Guided Access is a great tool for managing students.

NOTE: at TCEA, I was introduced to a program currently in beta called TabPilot.  It allows the teacher complete freedom to control the students’ devices from either their device or a desktop computer.  It looked super cool.  I’m looking forward to trying it out and sharing with you when I know more.


Automatically sync apps rather than allow students the freedom to download onto the classroom devices.

Take care of the battery and monitor their usage. It used to be recommended that to let the battery go all the way to zero and then recharge but now, it seems the best place for the battery to be is around 50-70%.  I’m no expert but it doesn’t hurt to know the facts.

Finally, I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again.  Have a back-up plan.  I almost wrote a comment about not wanting to be caught with your pants down (since that is a figure of speech about being unprepared if you didn’t know) however, I have decided that is completely inappropriate (yet not inappropriate enough for me not to make a joke).

Slide24Here are some credits so you can get more information if you so choose.  Technology graphics are courtesy of Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah Designs.  Backgrounds are from PixelScrapper and the frame is from Lovin’ Lit.

Thanks for reading!

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Wishlist Wednesday

Teachers Pay Teachers is having a site-wide sale which means thousands of awesome products for up to 28% off!! Kudos to Aileen Miracle for creating the ad and Meredith Anderson for graphics.

Screen Shot 2015-02-25 at 8.57.05 AMBecause of the awesomeness of this site-wide sale, the aforementioned Aileen Miracle is hosting a wishlist linky party.  I believe the rules say that I’m supposed to post 1 item from my store (which I’ll totes do) and one item that I’m excited to buy and one clip-art item I’m excited to buy.  Well, I’m going to have to break the second and third because I’d like to share more than one item I’m buying today because there are so many great products and my fellow sellers deserve the kudos so………

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1.) Item from My Store: I Give a HOOT about Music Bulletin Board Kit

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It’s not new but, with Music in our Schools Month coming up, it’s a great addition to any music room!

2.) – whenever I’m finished! Items I’m buying!!  Click the images for a direct link to each item.

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I love Boomwhackers!  The kids love Boomwhackers!  It’s win-win and 50 partner songs for $8 is a STEAL!


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I had not heard of Listening Gylphs until recently and now I’m excited to implement them all over my listening lessons!

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More Listening Glyphs but THESE are specifically for the Nutcracker Suite

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I’ve taught this song for several years and I have the textbook visuals but I really wanted something with a little more pizzazz.  I usually wouldn’t mind making it myself but why bother when Brittany has done it for me. :)

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This is another song that I’ve taught before (and already taught when presenting half note earlier this year) but I like the visuals for it.  I’ve been holding out on buying it specifically waiting for a sale.

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I’m buying this to add to my Pre-K arsenal.  Those little babies are sponges and my goal is to only use the best resources with them.  It’s a work in progress (not Aileen’s product, me, in general).

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This is a fairly new product from Jena Hudson and, though I don’t technically NEED it, I like having back-up activities for a rainy day (or sick day……or conference day…..etc)


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I’ve also loved The Planets but the pieces are long and even my older students don’t appreciate them like I do.  I’m looking forward to using these (and the listening glyphs I already bought) to expand their understand the listening repertoire.


Well, now you know what I’m buying.  What about you?  Let me know in the comments!

Thanks for reading!

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Teaching Untethered: Wireless Technology in the Classroom Presentation

Teaching Untethered

I had the opportunity to present at both the TCEA (Texas Computer Educator’s Association) conference as well as the TI:ME (Technology Institute for Music Educators) National conference which coincided with the TMEA (Texas Music Educator’s Association) convention.  Lots of acronyms, I know, but I want to make sure we are the same page.  This presentation is about using tools and techniques to “untether” teachers from the front of the classroom.

Slide02What is so important about teaching “untethered?”

It’s about getting out from behind your desk, your overhead, your computer, wherever you are in the classroom that’s keeping you away from where your students are.  Technology is wonderful but, for some, it seems to be tying us down.  When teachers cut that cord (figuratively……hey, and literally), they allow themselves the mobility to teach amongst their students rather than in front of them.


When teachers can freely move about the classroom, they can better manage those disruptions and potential disturbances without losing the flow of their classroom instruction.  Proximity is a much more effective classroom management technique than simple calling out a student from the other side of the room.  Plus, the student has the benefit of changing their undesired behavior and making a better choice without a negative verbal cue from the teacher.


When teachers are free to be mobile within their classroom, it not only helps with classroom management but, also, informs the teacher about to mold their instruction for their students.  By checking for understanding in the moment, teachers can assess what their students have learned without having to wait for a graded assignment or test to see who understands the concept.  I know this isn’t new information, however, with the rise of technology, there seems to have be a lack of the active monitoring of students.  I’m far from the perfect, and I have those days where I just don’t have 100% in me to give, however, on those days, I do notice more behavioral issues and less understanding when I’m stationed at one area of the room for the entire class instead of moving around the room among my students.


Here is a musical example for my musician colleagues.  In the midst of district-wide construction, I had to manage an entire grade level of 6th graders as they prepared for their end of year promotion ceremony.  The only sound system in the room we were using (that was not near big enough) was stationed within the podium at the front of the room.  My responsibilities for the ceremony included providing background music before and after the event, providing music for the students to walk into the ceremony to and music for a musical performance by the students.  Although I could have easily sat at the front of the room and scurried underneath whoever was standing at the podium, I choose the hidden route. (And, although I put on a good show, I’m much more comfortable in the background than in the big middle of something like that).  With the use of the apps and tools I’ll address below, I was able to control all the music (and even direct the musical performance) from the back of the room.Slide06

Before I get going with actual specifics, I will say that I’m a Mac-person and most of this presentation is tailored to that brand.  I have a kindle fire but it is only for home use and I have no idea if these apps and tools are available in other mobile platforms.  MOST of the computer based programs and tools are available for both Mac and PCs but I would definitely suggest researching on your own before purchasing anything to make sure that it works for you, your situation, and the infrastructure at your school.




This sections is about apps and tools I use to wirelessly manage my classroom.

Slide09 I have actually blogged about both Class Dojo and iDoceo before (HERE) but I can’t sing the praises of either enough.  I only use Class Dojo for 1st-6th grade.  6th grade has a little less buy-in than the younger ones but I still keep it up for the ones who do.  I have recently heard criticism (in the news, not in my experience) about Class Dojo as “shaming” students for poor choices but I don’t see it as any different or worse than calling a student out in front of the class.  During my lessons, I don’t even show the dojo site because I’m using the board for showing other visuals for the lesson.  The sound is still on and they respond when they hear that “ding” or “wonk.”  Even without knowing who the point went to, they all sit up a little bit straighter wondering if it was them.  They are curious to check at the end of the lesson to see how many points they have.  To make it mobile, I run the app on my iPad while the desktop screen has a browser window with it open as well.  When I give/take away a point on the app, it shows up and makes the sound in the browser window.



I LOVE iDoceo!  I use it for pretty much everything in regards to managing my classroom that Class Dojo doesn’t do.  I keep my participation grades, in the moment assessment grades, seating charts, notes about students.  It’s awesome.  Plus, it only connects to the internet to create a back-up to the cloud storage of your choice so you’re not putting student grades on the web and you don’t have to rely on an internet connection to use it (like you do with Class Dojo).


To make it even easier (for my brain at least) I use a universal rubric for all assignments and data.  It is on a four point scale: Green-Awesome-Expert-A, Yellow-Pretty Good-B, Orange-Needs Some Help-C, Red-No Clue-F.  Those aren’t the actual definitions but it gives you an idea of how I read data like in the image above.  By using the same scale for all classes and grade levels, I can see at a glance where my students in regards to whatever I’m looking at (participation, memorization, skills, assessment, etc).  Of course, I understand that this wouldn’t work so much for a general education teacher because they are required to input number grades.  It still has it’s uses those.  Plus, colors speak to me so much more than raw data on a white screen.  I think that’s why I have to color-code everything I do regarding data.  Slide12

I mentioned that iDoceo has seating charts and I love that they are completely customizable.  I can have one for risers, for small groups, etc.  The app allows for up to five per class.  Plus, you can add pictures and print out for your sub plans or project onto your whiteboard so even early readers can find their group easily.



This is just a sampling of the other parts of the app.  If I were a general education teacher, I would totally put my students’ contact information in there but, since I have 600 students, I’m not quite willing to input all that data.  I do use it for attachments and notes though so, in the event of a parent conference, ARD, or intervention meeting, I have all of the child’s data (regarding my class, at least) together and ready on my iPad.



I have blogged about my lesson planing and tracking before (HERE) and will probably again in further detail in the future because I get so many requests about explaining it and my process.  As a side note, you’ll see, it’s color coded. Since this post is particularly about mobility, I’ll skip the details about specifically planning and save those for another day.Slide16

I use spreadsheets for pretty much everything I can.  I just love having all my data organized in columns and rows (and color-coded)  Using tools such as Google Apps, Office 365, and iWork, I can edit my lesson plans, assessment data, tracking data anywhere.  For example, let’s say I create a Google Form to check for understanding in my students.  I create the initial form at my desktop computer in my office during my planning time but then I open the response page on my macbook connected at the front of the room.  I use the Google Sheets app to track who completes the assignment and what their answers were to give them instant feedback.  No matter where I am or what device I’m using, I can edit my data on the go.Slide17



I recently made the switch from using Dropbox mainly to Google Drive.  There were two reasons for this.  First, my school PC’s firewall was blocking Dropbox from downloading on the hard drive of the computer.  I could still access my files but I had to do so from a browser window.  Also, because I use so much data, I was paying $15/month for storage space in the cloud.  Then, I learned that Google provided unlimited free storage space to Google Apps for Education schools so I went with that.  So far, I’m a fan.  I still have my dropbox account and use it.Slide19

I mentioned these tools above but here they are again.  Each of these product lines allow the user to edit and view documents on the go.  Like I said, I use Google but I know other teachers that are die-hard fans of the other two.Slide20

I LOVE Symbaloo and I’ve talked about it many times on my blog because it’s just so great.  In fact, I’ve created a board with all of the links for this presentation HERE.

I use Symbaloo everyday as my homepage.  I have all my links organized by school or home plus all the other boards I’ve discussed in the past (here, here, here, and here).  I create Symbaloo boards prior to my lessons for easy access for my students.



Padlet, on the other hand, can be used in the moment as a collaborative board for you and your students.  Prior to the lesson, I can put links, images, videos, and documents together and then they can comment, share, and add to it during the lesson.  Here is a Padlet (it’s blank for my students’ privacy) for a lesson the Human Voice.  Padlet can also be helpful in a flipped teaching model as you give your students access to the information beforehand and use class time to discuss and elaborate.




These slides about Audio Control are pretty self -explanatory.  The bluetooth receivers I’ve had experience with are helpful because you can use them with any sound system but I didn’t like the distance restrictions.  I would be at my classroom door greeting students and the music would be fuzzy from being so far away.  In my classroom, I use the Tango Remote everyday.  I have one iPad with all of my music on it connected to the sound system and another iPad in my hands pretty much all the time.  I have the app open on both devices so I can play, pause, stop, control the volume, etc. without running back and forth to the sound system.  When using Spotify, I use the Spotify Remote which works exactly the same way.  Spotify has also recently come out with their own version of a remote by using your phone but I haven’t tired that out yet.Slide24


These are just some examples for using audio in the more general ed classroom.  I use a lot of these in my daily procedures with an opening song and a line-up song.  In the past, I’ve also used a clean-up song (which was a parody of “I’ll Be There For You” from Friends called “I’ll Clean Up the Room.”  Yep, I rewrote all the words and recorded it so I could play when it was clean-up time).  Hal Leonard also has a book on musical transitions in both the music room as well as the general ed classroom.


Finally, on to how to be untethered from your screen.  I prefer the Splashtop Remote Desktop for controlling my laptop (which is connected to the projector) from my iPad.  You can add features such as white board capabilities and remote access.  I also sometimes use an app called VNC viewer which is free but can be somewhat temperamental.  Be mindful whenever you use screen-sharing apps to password protect so your screen doesn’t get hijacked by tech-savvy students.  I use the Keynote Remote specifically for Keynote (the Apple version of Powerpoint) presentations (such as this one) because it is easy peasy to work.  It, too, can be used to annotate whatever is on the screen.  Slide26

I love using Reflector to mirror my iPad onto my projected laptop screen. One license allows any iPad in the vicinity to be projected (which is helpful but also a scary thought to some).Slide27Even though these tips are right above for your reading pleasure, I’m going to go ahead and address each one individually because they are so important when making the switch to wireless teaching.

** Always Test-Drive – Back in December, I was so excited because I was going to run the entire Fall musical “The Nutcracker Suite) from my iPad.  The sound system would be backstage and I would use the Tango remote (mentioned above) to run it.  Although that would have worked in my classroom, I found out (through painful trial and error……and error…..and error) that it wouldn’t work in the cafeteria because the nearest wifi signal was in the next building and it wasn’t strong enough to connect the two iPads together.  At the last minute, I had to move the entire sound system to it’s usual place at the front of the stage and, thankfully, I had that last minute to do so or it would have been a very awkward performance.

** Have a back-up plan – The back-up plan will probably be to physically tether yourself back up but we learn through making mistakes so learn from it, go with it, and try again.  Don’t let one minor slip ruin your lesson or your day.

** Find out your network capabilities – Apparently Apple TV does not work with my district’s network.  I’m not sure on the technically aspects.  I found out when I ordered one and then, thankfully, my principal checked with the technology department and discovered it wouldn’t be compatible.  Make sure you know what your wireless network is capable of before making any big purchases.

Congratulations!  You’ve made it through this monster blog post!

I’d love to hear any ideas or suggestions you have to go with this topic.  Be looking for my other recent presentation about Managing iPads in the classroom coming soon!

Thanks for reading!

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Backgrounds by Red Strawberry Designs
Tech Graphics by Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah Designs








Linking up to:


The Nutcracker Suite Mini-Musical Performance

So, I know this information won’t really help you right now in January, HOWEVER, should you desire to have your students perform this mini-musical, you’ll have plenty of info and time to prepare.

The Nutcracker Suite

I have never been a dentist but I can imagine pulling teeth is a lot like trying to force prepubescent boys to sing in front of each other and, of course, girls.  Each lesson I do with 4th, 5th, and 6th graders is specifically chosen and created to “trick” (wrong word but it’s the one coming to me) these boys into having fun while learning in music.  Of course, there are those boys that think whatever we do in music is that best thing ever but those are a small percentage.

ANYWAY, my after-school club is the group that performed this and they were an absolute joy to work with.  Of course, anything is easy when the students want it enough to work for it and take risks for it.  There were several boys in the show but the majority were girls.  Thankfully, I had enough boys to do all the male parts without having to do some gender-bending.

This musical (click image above to go to site) is absolutely adorable and was quite the hit.  It uses the melodies of Tchaikovsky’s ballet to tell the story of Clara and her nutcracker.  The music is quite simple; mostly unison with a few sections in 2-pt.

In an effort to make the finale, “Waltz of the Flowers,” special, I asked the dance club to perform.  Their sponsor choreographed and taught a simple routine (these are 1st-3rd graders) and the students were quite adorable.  Of course, this happened during our performance for the student body…..

dancer tripped nutcracker

Yikes!  I was way proud of all the dancers and singers though.  They kept going and the dance sponsor and I did counts between the phrases so students wouldn’t get lost.

The stage was pretty easy to plan/decorate.  Of course, it was still time-consuming but Christmas decorations are plentiful.  Please don’t judge our sad (though newly renovated) cafeteria stage.  We are in the process of building an auditorium that will hopefully house future performances.

nutcracker suite stage decorationsI got lucky because the cafeteria staff had a Christmas tree already in there to decorate the cafeteria.  I just had to add the one from my classroom to make the stage even(ish).

nutcracker suite christmas tree

Costumes are pretty easy with one exception: the Nutcracker.  Luckily, Oriental trading had this little number for fairly cheap.  It is adult-sized and, sadly, my Nutcracker actor was kind of tiny so one of our awesome parents hemmed it for me.

nutcracker suite costume

Finally, a shout-out to Edu-Clips and their clip-art which made the paper portion of the program even easier. I had my older students color them (totes stole that idea) which made each program unique.  I left some un-colored in case participants or families wanted to color their own.

nutcracker suite paper programI hope you will consider doing this show.  I don’t get any funds for advocating for it but it is so fun and easy.

Thanks for reading!

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Reading Now?

So, Jennifer at The Yellow Brick Road is hosting a Linky Party called “What Are You Reading Now.”

Here is my dilemma:

What Are You Reading Now


Haha!  Is there such a thing as too much?  I bought a Kindle (my first one evah!) the week of Thanksgiving and, since then, I’ve read 34 books (because, yes, I’ve counted). Last night, I ended up reading three books at staying up until 4am.  (Note: I’m not allowed to read books before during the work week for this reason).

It is quite the random mix of everything from Jane Austen fan fiction (who knew that existed?) to random comedy books to bios of polygamists (what? it is randomly fascinating).

Of course, then there are the stacks of books that I like to call my good intentions.

Case in point:


Anyway,  I’ll hit a few of my most recent favs.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without MeIs Everyone Hanging Out With Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

I wish Mindy Kaling was my friend.  She is absolutely hysterical and sometimes seems like she’s talking about my life specifically (obviously not).  Still, we’d be great friends.

Bedtime Stories for children you hateBedtime Stores for Children You Hate
by Antoninette Bergin

Yikes!  That’s what I have to say about this book.  Each of these “bedtime stories” start out all sweet but then turn quite horrifying…..not always like gross or horror just like “Wait, did that just happen?”

photoshop for dummiesPhotoshop for Dummies!  Oh yeah!

Anyway, hope you enjoyed reading my random reading business.

Thanks for reading!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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