The Mental Effects of Dieting: Cara Overshares Again

I’ll start by saying I may have way too much time for contemplation on my hands which is somewhat ironic because this has been the busiest summer in a while.  My life for the past several months has been almost consumed with this weight-loss journey so it makes sense that my brain goes there.

Disclaimer:  I’m not a scientist.  I’m not a health expert.  I’m not an anthropologist.  I’m just a girl with a blog and a head full of thoughts.

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So many people ask me regularly how I lost/am losing the weight.  In fact, it was recently brought to my attention that people who will remain nameless have been talking about it amongst themselves like I’ve found a secret fountain of weight-loss magic that I’m not sharing.  Truth: it’s diet and exercise.


I posted this screenshot a little less than a month ago and later found out it was quite a controversy.  Cara eats pizza and ice cream?  What?  She’s dieting!  How can this be?  Not that it’s anyone’s business exactly what I eat, I understand the need to understand…if that makes sense.

When I say diet, I mean a caloric deficit which is to consume less than you burn.  You figure out your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) using an online tool such as this one, this one, or this one. Then, you subtract calories from that determined by how much you want to lose.  By subtracting 500 calories from your TDEE, you’re aiming at a 1 pound per week loss (1 pound equals 3500 calories) which is a healthy rate of loss without too crazy of restrictions.

Now, back to the image above.  Yes, I had pizza this day but it was a mini microwavable pizza and I was moving in two days and trying to clear out my freezer.  Yes, I had ice cream but it was a Chilly Cow which has 6 grams of protein and is pretty low cal for a tasty sweet treat.  The two shake looking icons represent the protein shakes I drink because my personal trainer suggested I consume 120 grams of protein a day.  The cookie was a treat and it was not healthy but it was delicious.  My point is that yes, I ate pizza, and ice cream, and a cookie that day BUT I stayed within my calorie range which is the point of a caloric deficit.  Finally, real quick for those who may be thinking that “yes, she’s losing weight but is this really a healthy diet?”  You’re looking at a one day snapshot not what I eat everyday.  My blood work says I’m healthy (the healthiest I’ve been in years, in fact).

I think what may be surprising about this revelation of pizza, ice cream, and a cookie is that we as a culture equate diet was deprivation.  Yes, I have had the munchies for several days now so I am depriving myself in this aspect but, for the most part, I eat what I want.  It is about the choices I make not what I withhold from myself.  I didn’t gain 100 pounds overnight.  That was 17 years of eating out large portions of fatty foods, drink large amounts of sugary sodas, and not being active that caused those 100 pounds to pack on.  Because I didn’t gain it overnight, I can’t expect to lose it overnight either (and hope to keep it off) and neither can you.

The dichotomy in how, as a culture, we view food and diet has become very apparent these last few months.  We value being thin and it seems to be the ideal however every event from celebrations to tragedies seem to be centered around food.  What’s more is that, even though it is recognized that being thin is an ideal, those who are dieting may be criticized at these events if they don’t “cheat.”  In May, Teacher Appreciation Week was celebrated with a different celebratory meal or treat each day.  Although it was mostly understood why I wasn’t partaking at every opportunity, I was at times made to feel guilty that I wasn’t appreciating the gesture by eating/drinking.  Phrases like “I like a girl who can eat” are used to refer to thin woman who order a hamburger instead of a salad but would never be said about an overweight woman.  Dieters are frequently joked to about “cheating” at celebratory events but (I’d hope) no one would say that to someone with an alcohol or drug addiction.  We want to have it both ways but it just doesn’t work.

Phew!  Sorry, I got a little heated there.

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You’ve probably seen this quote from Kate Moss who said “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.”  I used to say that she must have never had tacos.

Although my goal is not to be skinny, I changed it to healthy because I’m realizing the truth of this statement.  At the new apartment, there isn’t a bark park so Coco and I have been taking multiple walks a day.  We’ve been averaging two miles a day.  I listen to a podcast and we just zig zag throughout the community.  I walk to take the trash and recycling where I used to load it in my car and drive it.  I walk to the grocery store and the gym.  I walk and I’m not winded. I do a full hour of Zumba or another class without thinking I’m going to keel over.  I can put it a whole day of activities and feel satisfied with the day instead of so exhausted I collapse onto the couch.  (We’ll see what happens when school starts again.  That’s always mega exhausting).

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Back to the famous pizza and ice cream –

I’ve harped on this in other posts.  It isn’t about going a diet but making a maintainable, sustainable lifestyle change.  It’s also about baby steps.  If you’re eating out breakfast, lunch, and dinner at 4000 calories a day with no exercise, it is not feasible to immediately restrict to vegetables only, 1000 calories a day, with rigorous exercise.  Small changes built over time will do more to create lasting change than making a complete 180.

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I know myself.  I love sweet treats.  If someone told me to be healthy, I couldn’t have another sweet treat, I’d probably say I couldn’t do this then.  I love pizza.  I love cheesy-fry goodness BUT, since I love walking 2 miles without getting winded more, I watch the portions.  I balance out those things I love with things that will keep me moving forward.

To do this, you also have to be brutally honest.  Yesterday, there was a Teacher Event at Walmart where there was cake and ice cream.  Yes, I ate the cake and ice cream and my first thought was, “I won’t log this.  This isn’t a big piece of cake and that is just a little dab of ice cream.”  False!  Log everything!  I did log both the cake and the ice cream but I had to guess on proportions which is not ideal.

Sidebar: if you’re really interested in logging your food and tracking your calories, you must invest in a food scale.  Seriously.

When you are looking to make a change, you have to think: Can I do this for the rest of my life?  Since I know I love sweet treats, I have to balance that and incorporate it into my plan to lose and then maintain my weight.  That may be budgeting my calories so that I can eat the sweet treat without going over my daily calories.  If I do go over one day, that may mean eating less the next so the week is still at a deficit.  That may mean taking a maintenance break during celebratory times.  If I just deprived myself of sweet treats, not only would I resent the journey but there would be more of a potential to binge and then feel like a failure.

I will admit, I have felt like a failure the past couple weeks.  I haven’t lost anything since the first of July.  I take that back, I’ve lost three pounds but it was three pounds I gained…and then lost…and then gained again…and then lost again.  It has been very frustrating.  I’ve maintained a caloric deficit, I’ve worked out six out of seven days a week but I’ve been stuck.  What really stinks is being SO CLOSE to my initial goal and yet struggling so far to pass that marker.  (It’s not a finish line because a lifestyle change means this is forever.  There is no going back).

After feeling like a failure most of the week, I woke up this morning, opened Facebook, and saw a notification for a photo posted of me a year ago today.  It was taken at the Frida Fest where my friend Nanette was selling her photography book I had formatted and created the title design for.  There aren’t many full body photos of me from before so it was jarring at first to see myself.  Then I compared.


I’d felt like a failure for two weeks because I had been losing and gaining and losing the same three pounds over and over again.  What I neglected to realize is that I kept off the 78 pounds!  Yes, it is frustrating to work toward a goal and seemingly make no headway but the proof is in the pictures.  We as humans are so quick to point out the mistakes that we have to see past those mistakes or failures to see what has gone right.  Please help me remember this when my mindset decides to revert back to the I-can’t-I’m-a-failure realm.


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I’ve mentioned a change in my confidence as I’ve lost the weight.  I wear more dresses.  I wear less baggy clothes in general.  Even though I acknowledge that those changes have occurred, I’m still the same person.  I bring this up because I’ve been asked and even my friends have been asked if I’m going to start dating now that I’ve lost the weight.  Wait, what?  The reason I didn’t date was all because of my weight?  It didn’t have anything to do with having limited social circle, anxiety, introversion, and dating just not being a priority?  Wow!  Wait…how come I know plenty of overweight people who date, get married, are happy in wedded bliss, etc? Did their weight not effect their dating prospects/potential too?  Do you see where I’m going?  The reason I really don’t date has much more to do with my mind, my expectations in a prospective mate, and my social anxiety/awkwardness than it does my body.  I acknowledge that that is quite a statement and there are many things I need to work on but I feel it is offensive to assume that my looks have been the reason I’m single.

That being said, one of the things I need to work on is this feeling that I’m really a fraud.  Who am I to spouting out weight-loss advice like I’m some expert?  I feel like I’m going to open my eyes and realize that my friends and family have all just been playing along and this hasn’t really been happening.  Does everyone just smile and nod their heads so they don’t hurt my feelings knowing that there is no way I’ve lost all this weight?  Do people assume I’m lying? Can you really tell a difference or is it all in my head?  My mind understands the number on the scale went down and I’m wearing smaller clothes but yet I’m still that girl.

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When I talk about going to the gym, is this really me or am I just a really good faker?  When I talk about a caloric deficit, is this really me or am I just a really good faker?  Is this lifestyle change possible or am I just faking it until I get tired and revert back to my old ways?

As a side note: the fraud feeling seeps into pretty much every aspect of my life.  Am a great teacher or just really good faker?  Am I good musician or just a really good faker?

I do realize that this is all my brain but it amazes me how something that is seemingly so physical (dieting, exercise, etc.) has such an extensive mental component.  Maybe others have these thoughts too?  I’m just the only crazy pants sharing them with the world.

Thank you for being my counseling session.

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June Update and Weightloss Tracker

June was a busy month for not working full-time.  Ha!  I definitely could get used to not working full-time if I didn’t need, you know, the money.  I logged 44 hours of exercise.  Crazy, I know but it felt good (for the most part).  I started a new activity called Aqua Fit at the gym (hence the incorrectly worn swim cap).  I did figure out how to correctly wear the cap…eventually and have since switched to one specifically for long hair which has helped immensely.  I like Aqua Fit because of the low impact and low stress.  It’s mostly old ladies who seemingly don’t care and flaunt what they have.  I wish I was as confident as the Aqua Fit ladies.

I have started thinking about school but not too much. I finished Pre-K and Kindergarten lesson plans for the entire year.  1st-3rd grades are mostly finished and 4th-5th are in pretty good shape but still need work.  I’m about halfway through the compliance bundle (All that information that the powers that be don’t think we’re smart enough to remember from year to year).

Caitlan came to visit to help me pack (more on that in a moment).  We had a way fun time but I kept it (mostly) in control each day while we ate out and partied.  I even worked out two out of the four days she was here.

The big ordeal of this month was moving.  I didn’t move far.  My new home isn’t even six miles from my old home but it is still an undertaking.  You just don’t realize how much STUFF you have until you have to pack it, move it, and then unpack it…and that’s AFTER I’ve given away SO MUCH STUFF and thrown away a lot that I was holding onto (for various reasons…none of them good).

I did work out on the days I moved by myself but didn’t on the day of the big move or the following days of unpacking.  It is so overwhelming to have my stuff scattered and not in its place yet so I took the time to unpack.  It’s still not finished but it’s coming along. My favorite thing so far is having a garage.

Coco seems to like the new place even though there isn’t a dog park and I’ve only even seen one other dog besides her.  There is still plenty of grass and walkways though so she’s fine.  She randomly loves the bushes.

Other perk of the new home: it is in walking distance to so many conveniences.  There is a grocery store across the street from the community so I walked there on Saturday.  Of course, I couldn’t get a whole lot because I’d have to carry it but it is perfect for when you need only 1 or 2 (or 20 if they’re light) items.  There is also a pet supply store, a Dollar Tree, and my gym nearby.  I walked to the gym today.  It took about eight minutes both ways which is a great additional exercise.  I probably wouldn’t do that in the evening for safety reasons but during the day is great.

So, now it’s July 1st.  Where am I in relation to my goals?  As of this morning, I’m down 81 pounds and have, obviously increased my exercise.  Of course, I won’t be able to do 44 hours of exercise once schools starts back up again but it is helping to prevent any summer backsliding.  I’ve worked with the personal trainer this month and, although it is not easy, I see the importance of adding strength exercise and building muscle.


Since we know I love charts and data, I created yet another tracker for specifically tracking weight-loss.  This one can be printed on to be filled out or you are welcome to take a screenshot to be input as an image file to type over.  I’m choosing to type over and then print it off for my planner.  Here is my data:

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Mine starts in September of 2018 because that’s when I started this journey but I have a regular 12 month version for anyone interested in downloading for themselves.  Click on the image for a download of the blank tracker for 2019, 2020, and the total weight loss page.

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I know weight is such a touchy subject and I’m hoping, that by being open, we can demystify the topic and share with each other our ups and downs. I’ve been listening to the Half-Size Me podcast lately and the host Heather said something that has really stuck with me about people’s reactions to other people losing and gaining weight.  She basically said that, while you are losing weight, people are cheering you on and congratulating you but, if/when you gain any of it back, it is the loudest silence you’ll ever hear.  That is discouraging because so much of this journey has been mental as well as physical and it seems to be that way for most people.  By gaining weight, it becomes apparent that something is going on.  That may be something positive like being in a new relationship or starting a new job but it could also be something negative that the person is trying to cope with.  I’m not suggesting anyone say “Hey, you’ve put on weight.  Is something going on?” because that is horrifying but maybe just checking on your friends if you notice that they’re moving backwards away from past goals.  Maybe they’re fine but usually they’re not.  I give everyone permission to check on me if you notice me going backwards…but be kind because I’m pretty sensitive (#disaster).

Figuring our what triggers me to eat my feelings and learning how NOT to use food to cope as been as big of a challenge as anything.  Of course, I still love to eat but I’m working toward learning how I can eat/do/live while maintaining this lifestyle change as well as having a healthy mindset and relationship with food.

Thanks for reading!

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Monthly Macro and Exercise Tracker

The personal trainer keeps asking what I’m eating and how much I’m exercising and, although I have this information in the LoseIt App and Activity App, it doesn’t give a month or year view.   Again, since I love data, I decided to remedy that so when someone asks, I’m ready with the information.

Monthly Macro Tracker

I fasted this past Saturday so my calorie count was super low but you can get an idea of how to fill it out.  As I mentioned in a previous post, the LoseIt App tracks the macros for you as well as calories.  The idea is to create a caloric deficit.  3500 calories = 1 pound.


I also did a monthly version of the Exercise Tracker because the boxes were pretty small.  I’m still going to use it because it shows the entire year on one page but the monthly view allows for more details.

Monthly Exercise Tracker

The personal trainer is wanting me to do more anaerobic exercise since I have the cardio down so that’s why I wanted to add an option to track that.  The “Other” is for activities such as stretching and yoga that are neither aerobic or anaerobic.


You can totally see that Sundays are my day of rest.  Lol!  Anyway, I’ve uploaded these trackers as a single file for whoever is interested.  You can download them HERE.

Thanks for reading and for all of your support! I have been overwhelmed with your kind words and encouragement.

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What I Did This School Year – A Year for Me

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I didn’t know a year ago that I’d be going on a journey this school year.  In fact, I had worked it out with my boss that I would step back with my duties and clubs so that I could pursue other personal goals because I was legitimately on the fast track to burn out.  Little did I know what those personal goals would end up being and where they’d take me.

I had recently started playing piano professionally again and had returned to working as a church pianist.  I’d long wanted to go back to school to pursue a master’s degree (that hasn’t panned out…yet…due to the upcoming story).

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One of my good friends, Jaime, says the picture on the left looks funny because of the angle.  I’m tall and it was taken by someone several inches shorter than I am.  I’m usually the tallest amongst my friends and years of also being “The Big Girl” has taught me to hunch to try to shrink.  I was actually quite confident in how I looked on this night.  I was being honored as a distinguished educator and, though I didn’t win the overall award, I was still proud of what I had accomplished especially considering my history with not-nice people who have tried to push me down (that’s another story).

The thing is, I didn’t realize how UNHAPPY I was.  I’m not trying to body-bash and kudos to those who feel comfortable in their own skin.  My problem is that I never have.  In high school, I danced five days a week and still weighed 50+ pounds more than my friends.  I’m 5’9 and, as some called it, “big-boned” and never understood why I was so much bigger than everyone.  Why did I have to shop in the plus-sized section at 17?  Why couldn’t I shop at the stores my friends shopped at (the ones that are legit Fat People Discriminatory).  So, I gave up.  Why try to fight it?  I’m here; I’m big.  Let’s just learn how to live in this big body.

Fast forward almost two decades. My teenage stamina and metabolism had long faded. and my health was deteriorating.  My doctor had long been concerned over my blood work but not enough to go on medication because I was still young (ish).  I continued to eat whatever I wanted which included eating out for almost every meal and in large portions.  I drank soda (particularly Dr. Pepper) like it was water and my only exercise was whatever I happened to do in my classroom which become less and less over the years.  In total, I had gained over 100 pounds since high school.

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The reason the Trinity Prize picture is my go-to “before” photo is because I legitimately don’t have hardly any.  Over the years, the selfies and photos of myself I’ve allowed to be taken has lessoned.  There are at least 10 or more photos of my dog for every photo of myself.  Why?  Shame.

As much as I tried to convince myself that I was “fat and happy,”  I wasn’t.  I crouched and shrugged in photos.  I stood or sat in the back at every opportunity.  At social functions, I was the epitome of a wall-flower (okay, that’s a personality thing too but I’m working on it).  It wasn’t just my size I was ashamed of.  I was ashamed of how much I ate at a time so I’d eat alone.  I’d order two meals at a restaurant and take it home praying that the server would assume I was taking the extra meal home to someone (like they cared).  I was ashamed of what my body couldn’t do anymore.  It was embarrassing to go up a flight of stairs and be huffing and puffing by the end.  It was embarrassing to be the slowest walker in a crowd.

Again, if you’re confident in your skin, awesome.  This is not a judgement on any other person.  These are just Cara’s thoughts.

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I was afraid.  I didn’t tell people but I was afraid about getting diabetes (family history) but I didn’t want to do anything about because I liked my life (or so I thought at the time).  I loved eating what and how much I wanted.  I loved not limiting myself even though I was ashamed of my choices.  I loved the comfort that food would give me after a hard time.  I’ve never been a smoker and I don’t drink often.  Food was/is my vice.  When something good happened, I celebrated with food.  When something bad happened, I comforted myself with food.  I knew I wasn’t fine but I didn’t realize how not-fine I was.

Weightloss Journey3On a Saturday in September, I started having a really bad tooth ache.  I’ve have teeth issues that I don’t want to discuss but hadn’t had an ache to this extent in years.  I went to bed with tylenol but woke up with it still there.  I went to church on Sunday but was starting to notice other sinus-y symptoms.  By Sunday night, I was calling my mother in tears.  I took Monday off and went to Urgent Care which is a big step for me because I hate going to the doctor at all let alone a stranger.  My blood pressure was through the roof.  They took in multiple times trying to see if it was an error or if I’d calm down with time.  Nope!  The doctor at Urgent Care diagnosed a sinus infection but was mostly worried about the blood pressure so he gave me the symptoms of a heart attack and stroke in women and told me to call 911 if I began to experience them.  Friends, I’m 35 and hearing the symptoms of a heart attack and stroke!  The Urgent Care doctor prescribed meds and suggested I follow up with my regular doctor as soon as possible except that…I didn’t have one.  I hadn’t been to the doctor in years.  I’d avoided it because I was afraid of what they’d say.  I was still so sick and in so much pain.  I laid in bed the rest of the day and was awake and miserable all night.

On Tuesday, I went to the dentist and had to have the tooth that ached pulled.  Little did I know that you can’t have carbonation after having a tooth pulled so I wouldn’t be able to have any of my beloved Dr. Pepper until it was healed.  Friends, that was my only source of caffeine since I’m not a coffee or tea drinker.  The dentist did not prescribe pain meds and so I again spent the rest of that day and evening in bed but without rest.  There were lots of tears.  On a side note, I had to spend the entire tooth pulling procedure in a blood pressure cuff and heart monitor…that’s not fun.

By Wednesday, my mother and sister had had enough of my calling them in misery so Caitlan generously came down to go with me to my doctor’s appointment (I found one!) and to take care of me.  The doctor was very kind and sympathetic to my suffering writing prescriptions for the pain as well as for the not-sinus infection (probably flu but I was already on antibiotics so they didn’t test).  She also did an EKG to check my heart which was fine except for the extremely fast beating.  My blood pressure was also still high.  I finally slept on Wednesday because Caitlan dosed me.

She had to go back to work the next day so my mother came and switched places with her.  I finally started to eat (soft foods) again.  It had been days.  I ended up having to take the entire week off.  My mom went home on Sunday so she could could go back to work.  I did not bounce back that well.  It took a couple weeks to feel back to normal.

I revisited the doctor after getting well and it was evident from my blood work that I needed to make a change.  The scare of having to hear the symptoms of fatal diseases was jolting.  Since I’d had to stay off carbonation after the tooth pulling, I’d already gone through the caffeine withdrawals everyone is so afraid of.  I’d lost six pounds just from not drinking soda though I drank gatorade and juice which are still super high in sugar.

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I’d tried to lose weight before but never successfully.  I’d never put my heart into it.  This time, the jumpstart of losing weight due to going off soda helped.  I began using the app Lose-It! and set a goal to lose 85 pounds which would put me to my pre-Wayland weight.  Logging everything I ate was tedious but everyone who knows me knows how much I love data.  I began to see how many calories I was drinking so I lessened the sugary juices and drank the low calorie Gatorade and tried to drink more water.

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My team decided they wanted us to be Snow White and the Seven Dwarves for Halloween.  I was excited because my dress that had fit when I bought was now too big (though it doesn’t look it in the photo).  Even at just losing ten pounds, I felt more confident in my skin.  By December, people were starting to notice (yes the December photo is in a bathroom).

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It made me feel so good that people were taking notice of my hard work which made it easier to continue even when I wanted to cheat.  Not having caffeine didn’t bother me anymore.  I didn’t even miss it and stopped counting the days since my last drop of the nectar from Heaven.

The results didn’t happen super fast like some people because I wasn’t making many drastic changes all at once.  With every weight-loss, my calories in the Lose-It app dropped.  I’d evaluate what was working and what wasn’t.  I realized I could eat more food if it had less calories (for some people, that’s obvious).  I also realized that I could still enjoy the foods that I loved; I just didn’t need to eat an enormous portion.  Confession: I did gain five pounds back when we went to Vegas.  Even with all the walking, there was just so much deliciousness at every turn.  It’s hard to eat healthily on vacation.

Weightloss Journey Headers4I’m not saying my New Year’s resolution was to exercise but I did start exercising in January.  My apartment complex has a little gym which is literally one treadmill, one elliptical and some weights.  Nothing extraordinary.  I’ve never been a runner.  Even in junior high, the mile killed me.  I made a B in the Fitness class I took in college mostly because the 1.5 miles was a test grade and I couldn’t complete it.  My doctor had said I needed cardio exercise though to get my heart-rate down so I wanted to give it a go.  I went with the elliptical instead of the treadmill so there would be less pounding on my joints (I’ve been hard on my joints throughout the years).  The first day I ran one mile.  The second day I went, I ran two.  Then, three miles.  In January, I ran 17 miles total but I hated it.  Okay, strong word.  I didn’t HATE it but I didn’t think it was sustainable because I didn’t enjoy it at all.  I watched Netflix but even that was getting old.  I remembered how much I used to love to dance so I looked at studios around town and found Smash Dance.

Smash Dance Fitness

Smash Dance is a dance studio that offers classes in Zumba, HipHop Cardio, Toning, and MiXXed Fit with special event classes in styles such as AfroBeats, Vegas Showgirl Fitness, and Belly-Dancing.  Don’t ask me to Vegas Showgirl Dance or belly dance.  They offer a pay-by-the-class option or a membership with unlimited classes.  I went that route and joined at the end of January.  Click on the image above to check them out.

Exercise afforded me more energy as well as keeping the weight-loss on track.  I try not to eat any calories I burn from exercise but sometimes I dip into them.

I also started to need new clothes.  I’d had to buy the next size down in pants pretty quickly but had been wearing the same size shirt since before I’d started.  Since the beginning I’ve gone from a size 24 pants to a size 12 and from a size 4X shirt to an extra large.

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I’m not going to lie.  This journey has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  Getting my college degree was not as hard as this has been.  I know I’m probably biased because food is my addiction but I think it is the hardest addiction because you have to eat.  With other addictions, you can avoid situations and people that are related to the addiction.  With food, it is a daily, no, hourly decision to keep going and to make healthy decisions in the midst of whatever is going on in your life.  Yesterday, I was invited to a birthday party and the cake looked absolutely amazing but I didn’t partake.  I looked at that cake for the entire party but I didn’t partake.  The night before though, I did and immediately regretted it.

The thing with weight-loss is also that there are other factors besides what and how much you eat.  Hormones, body processes, and stress all affect your body as well and I’m not immune to those effects.  I’ve hit plateaus but non-scale victories help keep me going.

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In March, I had the opportunity through church to take professional photos and Coco was invited.  Before this journey, I wouldn’t have bothered.  In fact, my headshot I used to use for everything was one from 2006 because I hadn’t taken a photo I like better since then.  Others are starting to notice the shift in confidence as well.  I don’t crouch or shrug to look smaller.  I stand taller.  In fact, I’ve gotten asked frequently if I’ve always been this tall.

My skin looks more radiant and skin issues that I’d had in the past have cleared up on their own.  My hair is healthier than ever before.  I can get up and down without creaking or struggling. I don’t stand in the back anymore trying to be invisible.  I don’t stand in the front either because, like I said, I’m tall and don’t want to block people’s view.  I don’t constantly worry that everyone is judging me.

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I also started dancing again.  It’s mostly Zumba but I did have the opportunity to co-choreograph and perform a routine for school.  I hadn’t realized how much I missed it.  My body still isn’t quite able to do everything it could all those years ago but it’s improving.  In fact, with my stretching class, I’m SO close to being able to do the splits again.

There have been unplanned and unintended side-effects as well.  I haven’t had a migraine since I was sick in September.  I was having them on a regular basis before then but this school year was almost migraine free.  I still have headaches but nothing like the require-the-dark-silence-with-my-check-pressed-against-the-cold-floor-misery that used to occur.

Another side-effect that took me by surprise was that people are nicer to you when you’re thinner.  I knew that people were judging me before and I knew that I was ashamed but I didn’t realize that people treated me so much differently before.  I’m seen now where before, even though I was bigger and took up more space, I was invisible.  Okay, maybe not invisible but ignored.   I’ve always been the funny friend and “talented” (even though I’m not a particular fan of that word) but I had to work harder to be noticed for those traits which I realize is in direct conflict with the wanting to be invisible.  It’s hard to explain but it’s real.

Weightloss Journey9

The most recent non-scale victory has been buying clothes in the regular ladies department.  You also see I’m wearing more dresses (the aforementioned confidence).  Plus size departments are so lacking for the most part and frequently are not actually tailored to fit plus-sized bodies.  They’re just bigger clothes that end up making the buyer look like they’re wearing a garbage bag.  I had found Torrid (a mostly plus-size retailer for women) before this journey and most of my clothes are still from there because it’s a guarantee that the clothes will fit but I’ve gone from one end of their size spectrum to the other.  In fact, I’m one size away from the smallest size they offer.

Weightloss Journey Headers6

Confession: I really celebrated my sister’s birthday this past weekend with all the delicious food.  I did stay under my calories the entire time but I ate a lot of things I hadn’t been.  I was up most of the week but just kept on going with my plan and am back at it.  I’m still 20 pounds away from my goal weight (well, my goal-weight for now).

My biggest concern going into the summer is continuing my progress without a routine to stick to so I’m having to create my own routine.

Weightloss Journey10

I joined a second gym (I know, it sounds crazy) but, although I love Smash Dance, it isn’t all-inclusive fitness-wise.  Plus, I’m moving and my new complex does not have even a tiny gym.  I chose LA Fitness because it is in walking distance to my new apartment and they have classes in the morning as well as the evening so I can do double duty for the summer at least.  We’ll see what happens come fall but for now, I’m keeping both memberships.  I also signed up for personal training which starts tomorrow. 🙂

Although I have worked out with weights before and on machines, I’m not well-versed in what I actually need to do and what is really best.  Plus, as mentioned earlier in this massively long post, I have some injuries that I need to be wary of.  Finally, while trying on clothes, I was made painfully aware of the loose skin problem that happens when you lose a significant amount of weight.  Although it is not possible to spot-reduce when losing weight, it is possible to select areas to tone.

I’m also keeping myself accountable.

Exercise track in useI had been tracking my exercise in the Notes App on my phone but decided to create this tracker and input the data.  The red squiggles are days I met my active calorie goal (according to my watch).  The green squiggles are days I met my exercise calorie goal (again, according to my watch).  The write-ins are legit work-outs.  I have completed May just not when I took this picture.  The 2018 data was all from my watch so I could compare.  You’ll notice that very few exercise days occurred comparatively.

Would you like an exercise tracker too?

Clicking the image below will take you to Google Drive where you can download the tracker for 2019 and 2020.

Free exercise tracker

As I said, there is more work to be done but I’m proud of the progress I’m making and am truly seeking a lifestyle change rather the start of a lifetime of yo-yoing back and forth.  I’ve been asked so frequently about what I’m doing and why that I decided to just write it all out and send people here.  As I stated above, this is hardest thing I’ve ever done and am continuing to do.  It has become my third job and now is the time to set realistic goals moving forward.

I mentioned earlier that I’m 20 pounds away from my first goal.  At my fitness assessment on Friday, I was ready to hear that I had another 70-100 pounds to lose to be in the normal weight bracket.  You can imagine my surprise when I was basically told that I’ll never weigh 120 pounds like people I’ve compared myself too.  That sounds harsh but I’m tall and I’m broad.  I’m built like a line-backer which I used to say jokingly but, it’s true.  I’ll never be a lanky twig.  According to the fitness assessment, even with 0% body fat, I’d weigh 135 pounds.  Do you know how relieving that is?  I mean, 0% body is obviously not feasible, healthy, or possible.  I don’t have to hit that or aim for it at all.  Reaching a “healthy” weight doesn’t seem as impossible anymore.

TL;DR – I’ve been counting calories for eight months and exercising for five months.  I’ve lost over 70 pounds.  It’s hard but worth it.

You made it until the end!

Thanks for reading!

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Music is a Language Poster Update

This is another poster that has gotten a facelift.  The original was part of the great data loss of 2015.  I lost an entire hard drive’s worth of designs, graphics, music, and more.  It was awful.  Luckily, I did have a lot backed up but not near what I lost.

Anyway, focus on happier times.

Since this poster was lost and was never posted in my store, it had to be remade from completed from scratch.  Now, it’s available for you in two handy sizes: 11 x 14 and 49 x 72 (yeah, that’s enormous).

Thanks for reading!

Rules Can Be a kaHOOT!

Okay, so I totally stole this idea from Alison Cabello.  Here is her blog post about her Kahoot rules:

I’ve done rules several different ways.  I’ve sung the rules. I’ve done rules using memes.  I’ve even done a Jeopardy style version of the rules.  I use Mr. Potato Head with the Pre-K babies.  I understand the importance of rules, however, the majority of my students (even being on a military base) come back the next year.  I don’t have the same students for several years in a row but, on average, students stay for about three years or so.  Of course, there are exceptions to that but the majority of the students I had in May will still be here in August so most of my students already know me and my expectations.  Plus, because I see my students only once a week and students are constantly coming and going, we go over expectations having to do with different aspects of the class on a regular basis.

My little ones will still do their eyes and ears active listening rules and my 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders will still sing the Rules of Music as before but my 4th and 5th graders get a new Rules lesson this year (insert sly smile).

If you don’t know how to use Kahoot, I have a post about it HERE.  The kids absolutely love it.

Presenting, in no particular order (because the questions are randomized)…

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By the way, we’re totally going to go over these questions and the correct answers as a class so no one will actually think the right answer is to interrupt class to yell and scream about it.  Remember, this is only for my upper elem grades.  I’d never do this with 1st graders.


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This is a biggie for me across all the grade levels.  I won’t deny a student access to the restroom but I will ask if they can wait.  Usually, I’ll say something to the effect of “Can you wait four minutes?” just so they won’t miss the direct instruction and go during a transition.  More often than not, the student can wait.  This is not so much an issue with the older grades as it is with the younger ones who hear the word “restroom” and suddenly have a domino effect emergency.  Luckily, the classroom teachers are really good about giving students opportunities to use the restroom BEFORE specials and they let me know in front of their students that everyone had an opportunity.  That usually quells the urge.

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They are probably going to think “Have fun” is the answer.  It’s not.

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We review this statement EVERY TIME we use instruments of any kind in my classroom. “If you play before I say, it’s going to be taken away.”  Even the Pre-K babies know this statement.  The urge is there and, sometimes, it’s too much.  Students who lose their instruments have to air-play to earn it back.  It’s never very long because the goal is for students to participate but it works.


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I think I explained this above.


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I’m hoping this one is obvious.


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Same meme; different question.  This kind of goes with the “Ask three before me.”  I frequently write the directions down as well especially if they are multi-step.


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I am the mean teacher who does not give every student an E for Excellent in music.  E for Excellent is the highest score on a E, S, N, U scale.  If students refuse to participate for whatever reason, they do earn an E for Excellent.  I know, Mean Miss Coffey…giving each student the grade they earn rather than using the auto-grade feature.  Confession: sometimes I make life harder on myself.

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Again, I hope this is obvious.  I don’t think students are legit thinking “He, he, he…I’m being disrespectful to school property…he, he, he.  I don’t think they think about the consequences and implications of their graffiti doodles.  Some even say, “I love music.”  Still not okay, friends.

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“Miss Coffey, we only two minutes left of music.”


“And, shouldn’t we be lining up?”

“Nope, we have one minute and 30 seconds until we need to line up.  I’d rather be doing something fun that waiting in a line.”

I only have 40 minutes once a week.  I’m going to use all 40 minutes.

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The answer is “by climbing them like stairs” in case it isn’t obvious.

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I mentioned this above.  I hope the get the obviousness of this one with the meme.

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#SorryNotSorry again for caring that students are in music when they are supposed to be in music.


I hope you enjoyed my meme Kahoot rules and I hope my students like them as well.  Like I said above, we’re totes going to go over these and the serious meaning of each.  I just want to start the year like we ended it in May: musical and fun.

Thanks for reading!

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Not Quite Anchor Charts – Update

I have updated these posters yet again.  Here are the originals:

Music Vocabulary Posters Cover

I decided they need a facelift and also could match each other better.  Posters are priced at $2 each OR $12.95 for all ten (saving you 35%).  The posters in this facelift also come in two different sizes for your convenience and, guess what?  If you already bought the original set, you get this set absolutely free.

After logging in to your Teachers Pay Teacher account, hover over your name so the below pops up.  Click on “My Purchases.”

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In the sort option box, select “Recently Updated” and the files will appear.  Remember, this is only if you purchase them already and are just getting the update.

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I hope everyone is ready for back to school!

Thanks for reading!

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My Favorite Resources for Teaching Found & Environmental Sounds

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Welcome back for My Favorite Resources #3! This series includes my personal favorite activities, songs, and videos that I use in my music classroom with my students.  These activities can be adapted to your school’s level of technology available.  I hope everyone looking for ideas will be able to take away at least one idea from each of these posts.

Other posts in the series include:
My Favorite Resources for Teaching Loud and Quiet
My Favorite Resources for Teaching Fast and Slow

I love teaching about found and environmental sounds but that wasn’t always the case.  My first year, I remember thinking, “How am I even going to teach this?”  I started with having the students listen to the sounds in the classroom (air conditioner, fan, people walking by) and went into a while spiel on how music is always around us and blah, blah, blah.  To say it wasn’t a hit is an understatement.

Now, this is one of my favorite lessons for the beginning of the year in Kindergarten.  Yes, all of these resources are from one lesson but, don’t worry, I don’t get to all of them with every class each year.  I definitely overplan because there’s nothing worse than having more time than lesson.


Have you seen this book? listening walk

If not, go to Amazon right now (or after reading this post) and put it in your cart.  You will not regret it.  It is a charming book that really sets the scene for listening for environmental sounds. There are videos for it but I like reading it out old school and doing the sound effects old school.  Plus, I like to have the children mimic the sounds as well.

After reading this book, we go for our own listening walk.  My district is very open and the elementary school abuts the Jr./Sr. High.   There are separate buildings for different grade levels and subjects.  My building is between the elementary gym building and the high school gym building.  Anyway, because we are on such an open air campus, our listening walk includes going into areas such as the band hall, theatre classroom, administration offices, the auditorium, open air hallways and more.  We walk a little bit in silence and then I turn around and we discuss the sounds we heard while we were walking.  Sometimes we stand in one area in silence so we can listen and discuss.  The kids absolutely love it.  Anyone who sees us walking is completely charmed by the line of children quietly following me like a silent pied piper and then discussing sounds in our environment.  This past Fall, we ended up running into the superintendent during our listening walk and he asked the children to describe the sounds they heard.


This little gem from Ann McGovern is also a little of fun.  Not only do the children get to practice their animal sounds, they also get a fable in the mix.  This one is pretty self explanatory but is another one I’ve had success with.



Both of these two resources can be found on PBS kids and are completely free.

I am so lucky to technologically blessed at my campus but I realize that is not the case for everyone.  In my classroom, I can use my ActivPanel which works like a giant iPad with multitouch capabilities and have multiple children at the board creating music with the different found objects.  That would never have worked in my other teaching situations.

If you have a projector, you can have the students choose from their seats what they want to add to the music mix and have them listen that way.  They won’t get the interactive function but they still get the concept.  Another idea on incorporating these activities without having the technology in your classroom to do so is to demonstrate in the class and then send home a piece of paper with the information and links for the children to play at home.  The parents get a glimpse of what their child is learning in music and the child gets to practice the concepts and creating music at home.  If you can’t send notes home, ask the homeroom teachers to include a blurb about Music Connections in their newsletters and parent communication.


This first one is called Crank it Up – Found Sounds and DW making music with four objects from the pile on the left side.  Students put one object in each tin plate and then press play to get DW to bike.  The objects create sound in the order they are in the tins.  By pressing the keyboard buttons, students can add additional sounds such as a cow mooing and a horn honking.  They really like to listen to all the different configurations.


In this next activity, Sid the Science Kid has a Sandbox Symphony of sounds to choose from.  Pressing the boxes makes the sound begin in slow intervals.  Pressing them again, speeds up the intervals of sound and then turns them off.  I just the let the children go with this one.  Be free, children, be free!


You can probably find some great videos on your own but here are two of my fav that I use each year.  Side Note: both videos are filtered through either or viewpure so eliminate advertisements and distractions on the side of the window.  The original youtube links are available by click the bottom right on each video’s window.


In case you do know, this first one is from Tarzan.  The apes and elephant friends of Tarzan have found the Jane and Co.’s camp and are very interested in all they find.  So interested that they make music.  I usually have this video as my intro activity on found sounds and tell the children that music doesn’t have to made with specific instruments.  I tell them to look for items being used to make music that aren’t musical instruments.  After watching the clip, we discuss the different items being used and the characters were making music with it.  Example, banging on the typewriter or blowing into the gramophone (which they totally will call a trumpet).


This one is the Kitchen scene from Stomp.  Since I use this with the kinder babies, they are familiar with it like the older ones usually are.  Again, we discuss making music with items other than traditional musical instruments.  It’s a great life action counterpart to the animated video above.



Due to the nature of the beast of teaching music, I do not do as many paper assessments that I probably “should.”  In fact, I made assessing my students more frequently my goal for my T-TESS (Texas new appraisal system).  It’s not going that great but I am trying.

Now, that being said.  Of course, I assess my students’ learning but I do by watching them, listening to them, and discussing with them.  My time with my students is so precious that I’m doing everything I can just to get them exposed to all of the music TEKS let alone assess them on all of them.

Okay, I’ll get off my little rant.  All that to say, I’m glad that other music teachers have taken some of the burden off my hands.


This packet of assessments for timbre from The Yellow Brick Road includes more than just the one shown for environmental sounds.  I like it because I can have play music from my computer and they can show either via drawing a circle or using a counter chip to place over the image.  The latter allows for more examples and less copies being made.  I have a flipchart (that I can’t share due to copyright reasons) that has musical examples for all three categories shown on the assessment.  The children decide on their paper while the sound plays and then, as a class, we discuss and put the sound in the correct category.  It allows for reinforcement while assessing.  Yes, this is still technically a watching assessment but I can do a quick scan of the room during each listening example and score accordingly using iDoceo on my iPad.

I hope you have some new ideas in your arsenal for teaching found and environmental sounds.

Thanks for reading!

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My Favorite Resources for Teaching Loud and Quiet

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I don’t know about you but my first few years of teaching were about surviving.  There was no Pinterest or Teachers Pay Teachers.  There were not these online communities of music educators on social networking.  I was lucky to have a music teacher mentor in my district but, at my campus, I was completely alone.

We’ve come so far with the amount of both free and paid resources at our disposal as well access to the expertise of fellow teachers of all subject areas and grade levels.  Now, it seems, we’ve gone the other way regarding the access to resources we have.  Because there is so much, it can be hard to really dig deep to get to the best activities to teach various concepts.

I hope to cut through some of that for my overwhelmed music teacher friends with my new blog series: My Favorite Resources for Teaching (Fill in the Blank).  This series will include my personal favorite activities, songs, and videos that I use in my music classroom with my students.  These activities can be adapted to your school’s level of technology available.  I hope everyone looking for ideas will be able to take away at least one idea from each of these posts.

For my first venture in this series, see My Favorite Resources for Teaching Fast and Slow.


Here are the Texas state standards regarding loud and quiet in kindergarten.
1D: Identify same.different in louder/softer.
3E: Perform music using louder/softer.
6C: Compare same/different in louder/softer in musical performances.

Here is my scope for teaching dynamics.  It is included in “expression” but you can still see the progression.


Grizzly Bear is my absolute favorite for teaching loud and quiet to kindergartners.  This was actually a lesson I’ve used since my very first year teaching because it was in the first unit in the kindergarten Silver Burdett Making Music textbook.  I really lucked out!


This version is from so you can have access to the notation if you are not familiar with the song.  Of course, there are several ways to teach it and act it out but my favorite remains having one student be the grizzly bear in the middle of the circle and have other students “go into the cave” and quietly walk or crawl around the sleeping grizzly bear.  When the grizzly bear awakes, the students crawling around him make a run for it.  Don’t worry, they only “run” back to their spots on the rug.


Lindsay Jervis has a lesson on TeachersPayTeachers to teaching Grizzly Bear which includes an extension into teaching quarter rest.  I use that lesson with my first graders to teach quarter rest with a song they are already familiar with.  Her lesson includes worksheets and critical thinking questions to accompany the song and notation.


This find from Creative Learning 4 Kidz has been a fun way to discuss sounds as well as vocabulary with pre-k and kinder students.  I project it using the document camera so we can organize together and everyone can see.

A new addition to from Aileen Miracle using her Music of the Chippewa.


Although any study on lullabies (and their purpose) will do, the Chippewa Lullaby in this collection is especially soothing and allows for inclusion of music from diverse cultures.
(TEK K.2.B) Sing songs or play classroom instruments from diverse cultures and styles independently or in groups



“In the Hall of the Mountain King” is excellent for having students move to show changes in both dynamics and tempo.  Here is a recording in case you’re unfamiliar.


I pass out streamers for students to the music.  My streamers are literally paint stirrers with dollar ribbon stapled to them.  The kids don’t care that they aren’t fancy.  They love them.  Usually, the first time through the song, I’ll move with them and talk through the song encouraging them to respond to the music with their streamer.  When we go through it again, I’ll watch and encourage as needed.

Another listening favorite of loud/quiet is The Surprise Symphony by Haydn.  Making Music Fun has a movement activity and listening map available on their website for use with this piece.  Again, I’ve included a recording from youtube if you’re unfamiliar with the tune.  Fun fact: I played an easy-peasy arrangement of this on the piano in fifth-ish grade. 🙂



All these videos are filtered through or viewpure but you can easily get to the original youtube link by clicking on the youtube logo at the bottom of the video.

This video cracks me up every time I use it.  Specifically, I begin my loud/quiet lesson with pre-k with this video.


After watching the video, we discuss lullabies and their purpose as well as why this lullaby doesn’t work.  It is a hoot.


This above video is also from Sesame Street and is great for a discussion on audience etiquette.


One more video from Sesame Street.  This duo sings about loud and quiet as well other comparatives for the little ones (fast/slow, high/low, etc).

As students get older, you can use this video from MusicK8 to reinforce the vocabulary of forte, piano, fortissimo, pianissimo, and crescendo.  They also have a copy of this song in their magazine for teaching but I don’t know which issue.  I use this video with first grade to introduce the vocabulary terms of forte and piano.  The other terms are bonus.  🙂


Last video but this one is from Mr. Greg.




Finally, one more resource that can be used for simple reinforcement as well as assessing students’ listening of loud and quiet.  This resources is from FantasticFUNsheets.



I hope you can find something in this collection that be can be used in your own classroom.  Thanks for reading!

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My Favorite Resources for Teaching Fast and Slow

blog-favs-photoI don’t know about you but my first few years of teaching were about surviving.  There was no Pinterest or Teachers Pay Teachers.  There were not these online communities of music educators on social networking.  I was lucky to have a music teacher mentor in my district but, at my campus, I was completely alone.

That was only a decade ago.

We’ve come so far with the amount of both free and paid resources at our disposal as well access to the expertise of fellow teachers of all subject areas and grade levels.  Now, it seems, we’ve gone the other way regarding the access to resources we have.  Because there is so much, it can be hard to really dig deep to get to the best activities to teach various concepts.

I hope to cut through some of that for my overwhelmed music teacher friends with my new blog series: My Favorite Resources for Teaching (Fill in the Blank).  This series will include my personal favorite activities, songs, and videos that I use in my music classroom with my students.  These activities can be adapted to your school’s level of technology available.  When I started teaching, I had one teacher desktop computer.  Now, I’m swimming in technology being in such a blessed technology-rich district.  I hope everyone looking for ideas will be able to take away at least one idea from each of these posts.

Alright, enough explanation!  Let’s get to it!


Fast and slow is a concept that is I usually teach in Pre-K and reinforce in Kinder using these standards (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills)

1D: Identify same/different in faster/slower in music performances.
3E: Perform music using faster/slower.
6C: Compare same/different in faster/slower in musical performances.

Here is my scope of what skills are taught throughout the grade levels regarding tempo. I know the font is teeny, tiny. :/


The Old Gray Cat is my absolute favorite song for focusing on fast/slow with young students.  Because it comes after loud/quiet in the lessons sequence, this song is also really great for reinforcing beginning dynamics. Here is the notation of the song courtesy of Beth’s Music Note.


I begin by singing it alone a capella as if I’m telling a story.  We discuss why we’re singing slowly and quietly during the majority of the song and then louder and faster at the end.  After the children are familiar with the song, we sing it with different children acting out the parts of the cat and the mice.  It is a hoot.  This lesson is found in the MusicPlay curriculum for 1st Grade and in the Pre-K Spotlight on music textbook from McMillan.

For kindergarten, I like using the Book  We’re Going a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosin and Helen Oxenbury.  Here is a video of Michael Rosin reading the story aloud.

Jamie Parker has a wonderful collection of resources to accompany this book including vocal explorations and a listening lesson incorporating “In the Hall of the Mountain King.”


Here is a song lyrics video of the song as well to be used in your classroom.


Finally, I use Vocal Explorations on the Move which I created to, not only appeal to the boys but to practice fast/slow which also reinforcing high and low (with airplanes versus submarines).



Little bodies love to move!  Also, Texas included movement in the update of the standards.
(C) Move alone or with others to a varied repertoire of music using gross and fine locomotor and non-locomotor movement.

Here my recommendations for movement that to reinforce fast/slow (faster/slow).


This one is super fun because it ends so fast.  The above video is from the Learning Station which also has it on CD.  I like the video version because I can turn it on for the students to dance along with while I do any business that needs attending to in the moment (consoling a child, taking attendance, writing a note, etc.)

Also by the Learning Station is Tony Chestnut.  Here is a video of it but I frequently use just the recording because the video is kind of distracting in my opinion.  Plus I can teach it the way I want to (though it requires a lot of exercise on my part).


Another great dance is the Chicken Dance.  I don’t have a video for this one (and the ones I was looking at online were kind of kooky).  I’ll assume you know that one. 🙂



For listening, I think the Carnival of the Animals by Saint-Saens is my absolute favorite to use.  I mostly use it with first grade close to the end of the year to teach instruments/instrument families but, while doing so, I reinforce both tempo and dynamics.

This video for Kangaroos is fun.  That piece in particular reinforces fast and slow.  Plus, you can have the students respond to the piece with movement to add that extra dimension.




I like Mr. Greg’s Videos.  He has several about beginning musical concepts.  By the way, all the videos are filtered through or viewpure.  Both sites should allow you to go to the original Youtube video if desired. Click on the image to go to the video.


MusicK8 has a great video that I use with first graders learning the vocabulary Presto and Largo.  It’s really fun because they use the Tortoise and Hare idea.  The kids think it’s a hoot.


Another literature is using the book There Was an Old Lady Who Wasn’t Afraid of Anything. This song is so singable and we discuss why the song gets faster (she’s afraid).





Finally, I use these tempo posters in my classroom.  I’m sure you can find products on TpT as well but these have served me well.  You can purchase them here.



Well, I hope these resources will help you when teaching fast and slow in your music classrooms.

Thanks for reading!

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