Friday, December 28, 2012

Light Up the Stage (Handcrafted Chandeliers)

Do you need some fresh ideas for holiday stage decorations? Where do you find your inspiration? I often find myself walking around Hobby Lobby looking for something to use to create decorations, props, or costumes. Last year, I struck gold in the fabric department. This wispy chiffon with ruffles looked wintery and seemed to be thin enough to use as part of a light fixture. I took the bolt over to the Christmas tree department and held it up in front of the white lights, and it was perfect.
I bought fabric, 6 sets of white lights, and 6 extension cords, but still had no idea how I was going to construct the light fixtures. After much deliberation, I decided lamp shades would serve as a good base for the fixtures. I bought 4 circles and 2 rectangles, so I could have 2 sets of three chandeliers.
I measured the diameter of the lampshade and cut the fabric accordingly.

I used strong clear packaging tape to attach the fabric to the inside of the lampshade. I used the lampshades upside down, so the largest part was on top. That allowed the fabric to flow straight from the top, instead of fanning out.
I forgot to take pictures after placing the lights inside, and now they are all boxed up and stored at school. It was actually quite simple. I used one string of white lights and one basic extension cord (I think they have 3 plugs) per light. The end of the extension cord fit tightly into the metal circle of the shade. I plugged the lights in under the circle, which kept the cord from slipping out when held upright. I took the lights and simply looped the strand around the metal parts of the shade as needed, to keep the lights from hanging out of the bottom.
Here is a close up of the lights shining through the fabric:
Here is the finished product hanging in my classroom as a test to make sure the tape would hold. I've used the decorations for two years now. Each year, we do 5-6 shows, so they seem to be durable.
In addition to making chandeliers, I bought some tulle and created a garland. I wrapped the fabric around strands of icicle lights, and used short pieces of tulle to tie and create the bubbles.
One last word of advice: Hobby Lobby always has a 40% off coupon for anything that isn't on sale. You can even search for it on your phone, and they will use the electronic coupon. Now, what are you waiting for? Grab a coupon and go shopping!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Virtual Field Trip

What student doesn't enjoy a field trip? Wouldn't a trip to the New York Philharmonic be an amazing place to take your music students? If you think that is impossible, think again! You can take them on a virtual field trip. The New York Philharmonic Kidzone is a fabulous website packed with kid-friendly ways to explore orchestral instruments, learn about composers, and participate in educational music activities.
I created a packet to serve as a guide for my students to use while exploring the NY Phil Kids website. Students have four task cards to complete first, which lead them through the Composer's Gallery, Composition Workshop, Instrument Lab, and Instrument Storage. After the tasks are completed, they may explore other areas of the website, which includes many musical games and activities.

If you would like to use the packet with your students, plan to allow more than one class period to complete the field trip. You can download a PDF of the packet by clicking the link below.


Take a quick spin through the NY Philharmonic Kidzone and see for yourself. It's a great place to visit. You'll be glad you did!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Veterans' Day Program

It's a busy time of year in the life of a music teacher. The holidays are approaching, which typically means we are in performance mode. I never found time to post anything in November, so I thought I would let you know what we have been up to at Crestline. Our 5th graders presented a Veterans' Day Program, and our K-3 students began learning music for their winter concert.

Our 5th Grade Veterans' Day Program is a very special tradition at Crestline. Each year, we honor about 100 men and women who have served, or are presently serving, our country in times of war and peace. 

Prior to the performance, 5th graders write poems, letters, or thoughts about veterans. We highlight a selection of their writing through videos during the program:






In addition to the videos, one of the highlights of the program is the performance of "Step In Time," which includes themes from each military branch. Veterans stand when their song is performed. It is always moving to see them join in singing, sometimes with tears streaming down their faces.

Although 5th grade students are the only ones who perform that day, any student in the school can honor a veteran. As the veterans stand in front to be recognized (approximately 10 at a time), they are presented a small flag by their student(s). A parent committee organizes this aspect of the program, as well as a breakfast prior to the program.

Following the performance, our 5th grade students complete a reflection sheet that allows them to think about things they might not otherwise consider:


You can download a copy here:

We find that our students feel so much patriotism and respect for veterans after working on this program. It's a very moving performance, and the veterans are always so appreciative. We enjoy making sure our veterans know we are thankful for their service.

If you like the idea of a reflection sheet following a performance and would like to use one after your upcoming winter concert, you might like to read my Winter Concert Reflection post for ideas.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Is Your Open House a Mad House?

I recently read Mrs. Q's post about her school's "Meet Your Teacher" night. She has some great ideas that she implemented for her evening and even provides a template for an informative Keynote presentation that you can customize to meet your needs. Her opening description of how this type of event goes in a music room made me laugh, because it sounded so familiar. If you are a music teacher, you understand how loud and chaotic these nights are when you mix crowds of people with drums, xylophones, and other exciting instruments.

My school's Open House is near the end of the year, and I have to admit that our classroom teachers are brilliant! Some of them have their students create a list of places to visit, such as the gym, art room, music room, and media center. After a brief time in the classroom, students are encouraged to take their parents and siblings on a tour of the building. While the classroom teachers prepare to leave on time, it seems the entire student body & family are in the music room playing drums, xylophones, and anything else I was unable to hide. Okay, I exaggerate a little, but it really does get crowded, loud, and chaotic.

I love getting to know parents, but it's impossible to have a conversation with the noise and the stress of watching 2-year-old children bang on $1300 instruments. I've watched mallet heads fly across the room while parents are oblivious, and students who would never run around banging drums or digging through instrument bins during class seem to believe everything in the room is free game during Open House. I used to attempt to put as many instruments out of harm's way as possible, but there are only so many places to hide numerous large instruments.

I needed a solution to the madness, so Open House would be a pleasant experience. In addition to running a slideshow, I've tried one other activity that went fairly well. It was actually just a way to organize the chaos, but it also served to educate the parents about what we do in music class.

I set up stations in the music room, and created a handout to serve as an educational guide. I gave specific directions about what to do at each station and gave brief background information about some of the instruments. The goal was for students to complete each station while educating parents about what they are learning in music. Meanwhile, the plan was for me to be able speak to parents at the door as they entered or exited the room. I can't say that it worked perfectly, but I feel that the handout and stations gave parents an idea of some of the things their children do in music class, and the stations kept people moving around the room with purpose.

If you want to further reduce the chaos, you could select stations that do not require playing instruments. Students could demonstrate music software, games, manipulatives, flashcards, whiteboards, smartboards, among other activities.

Do you have strategies for a successful Open House? I'm always looking for new ideas, so please share!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Google Forms Can Work for You

Have you used a Google Form? I am just learning how to make my life much easier with this little goodie. I may be a little behind the times on this incredible tool, but I just didn't know what I was missing. I believe that people rarely learn to use new tech tools until they have a real-world application for them. Once someone has a legitimate use for new tool, it is worth the effort to figure it out. A need for quick information is what led to my recent discovery of Google Forms.

Our 5th grade students are preparing for a Veterans' Day Program, and solo auditions will be held this week when our students are dismissed early for Parent/Teacher conferences. Rather than typing up permission forms, printing them, handing them out, sending them home, and waiting for them to be returned, I simply created a form in my Google Drive. This has been the perfect opportunity to test a Google Form to see how much it could help me do my job.
One really cool feature is that I could embed the form into my school web page. However, the most awesome feature is that the submitted results are automatically entered into a spreadsheet in my Google Drive. That is amazing! I no longer need to collect forms and create an audition list by day. Now I can simply sort the spreadsheet and print.

The list of uses for Google Forms is limited only by your imagination. If you would like to try one, follow these steps to get started:
  1. Sign up for a Google account, if you do not already have one. Click here to register.
  2. Go to your Google Drive.
  3. Click on the red "Create" button, then select "Form."
  4. Create your questions. There are choices for question types, and you can mark questions as required, if needed.
  5. You can select a theme.
  6. The form or link can be e-mailed, or the form can be embedded in your web page.
  7. As completed forms are submitted, the results are directly entered into a spreadsheet that you will see in your Google Drive.
  8. Sit back and enjoy the time and paper you saved by using this remarkable tech tool.
If you need more help, Google provides plenty of assistance: Google Forms Help

You should try a Google Form! It will save you time, effort, and paper. It's so simple! Now, if only selecting the soloists for our program could be that easy. Is there an app for that? :)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

What Will You Be for Halloween?

Have I mentioned how much I love Jeff & Randy's GamePlan curriculum? I can't recommend it enough. The books are reasonably priced and provide engaging lessons that organize musical objectives logically. "What Will You Be?" is another great song/lesson from GamePlan (Grade One, p. 24). This song has a nice melody in d minor, and it works beautifully with a bordun on the barred instruments. As usual, I seem to be unable to follow a lesson exactly, so here are my changes/extensions:

1. Due to past experiences at our school, I felt that we needed to remove the word "witches" from the song. Here are our altered lyrics:
To use this image in a PowerPoint, open it, right click, copy, and then paste it into a new Ppt presentation.
2. Students pat the beat while they sing, and I add a solo turn for each student to sing into the microphone: "I'll be a _____." Then the student moves to a xylophone to play the bordun, and then rotates through the instruments. I adapt the number of instruments to the level of the class and what will make the activity run smoothly. I want to focus on the students' singing voices first, so sometimes I do not even use the xylophones during the first introduction of the song. I extend the activity on another day.

3. During another class period, I place a box of masks and animal headbands behind a large bush that is in my room, which was a prop in a play. The box could also be placed behind a piano or other large piece of furniture. One child hides behind the bush and selects a "costume" and pops out at the end of the song wearing what he/she selected. The child sings "I'll be a _____" into the microphone that is placed in a handy spot for the students to grab as they are exiting the hiding spot. I have an empty tub for them to place used items in, so no one picks the same thing. It helps to have one child selecting an item, while one is dressed and waiting to pop out. Then they are ready at the end of the song and the activity moves quicker. 

I have organized the game in different ways. I have set up xylophones and other unpitched percussion instruments in a circle and had the students move around the circle. One place has a polyspot, which indicates it is time to move behind the tree. Other times, I have simply used my regular instrument rotation, and have a certain position that goes to the bush. My barred instruments are set up in 3 rows. Children move to the right on row one, back to row two and then to the left, back to row three and to the right. When they reach the final instrument they circle around the front to the beginning of row one. I walk through the rotation pattern and call it "zig" on row 1, "zag" on row 2, "zig" on row 3, then "zooooom" around the room back to 1. The zoom is a great place to move to the bush.

I began using this lesson with kindergarten and first grade a few years ago. Now, my older children see the bush in position for the game and beg for this activity. I've promised my 3rd graders that they will get to play this year, and I'm sure they won't let me forget. This is one of those activities students will remember with fondness. Who doesn't enjoy dressing up and playing instruments? I know I do!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Hippity Hop (to the Candy Shop)

Are you ready for some October fun? My K-1 students are! Here is a nursery rhyme that allows them to work on steady beat and pitch-matching skills, while singing about one of their favorite things: candy.

We sang "Macaroni" last week, which included singing solos, galloping on a stick pony, and playing a steady beat bordun on xylophones. You can read about "Macaroni" here. It was the first time for my kindergarten students to play the barred instruments. Therefore, I wanted to continue working on the steady beat bordun this week while continuing to focus on the singing voice, and "Hippity Hop" seemed like the perfect lesson choice.

Following some vocal warm-up activities, I displayed the following PowerPoint visual for the students to read while they learned the song:
Jeff & Randy have an arrangement of this song in the first grade GamePlan. (If you do not have this book, I highly recommend it!) They use only "sol" and "mi" for the melody, which is perfectly fine. However, I find that my students naturally add "la" in certain places, and I sometimes I get tired of fighting that battle. I really love the question and answer they added to the poem. The teacher sings, "What's your favorite candy?" and a soloist answers, "I like _____."
Of course, I rarely follow a lesson plan exactly. So, although I found this wonderful song and lesson idea in GamePlan, the activity has evolved and changed over time. My lessons seem to vary from class to class, depending on student suggestions and where the class leads based on what they seem ready to do. Sometimes an idea comes to me right in the middle of an activity that I think will improve the lesson.

In addition to adding "la" to the melody, I also did something different with the question at the end of the song. Since we have done a lot of solo-singing in our classroom microphone, I felt that my students could take over the teacher solo. Instead of me asking the question, I let one student sing the question and another student answer.  We turned it into a circle game and added two xylophones to the mix to practice playing the steady beat.

Students sat in a circle, and the student who was "it" walked around carrying a Hershey's Kiss pillow that I happen to already have. The child also held a microphone that is part of our classroom amplification system. He/she skipped around the circle (or hopped) while the class sang and played the beat on their legs. The leader stopped at the end of the song and dropped the Hershey's Kiss into a friend's lap. The first student sang the question, then handed the mic to the seated student who sang the answer. One thing that is helpful for younger students is to pause before the game starts and let children think about what candy they want to sing about when it is their turn. It helps for them to have an answer ready.
Next, students rotated to a new job: "It" moved to xylophone 1 to play the steady beat bordun, and the chosen student became "It." After the next round, the student at xylophone 1 moved to xylophone 2, etc.

I had one first grade class that was more advanced, so I tried a different option. I allowed half the class to move to the barred instruments to accompany the rest of the class while they played the game. They even wanted to rotate through the instruments after each turn. Some classes would not handle that many different activities at once, but they did a beautiful job. After everyone in the circle had a turn, the groups switched jobs.

There was just one problem I had while teaching this lesson. When I was giving an example of how to sing an answer to the question, I had a hard time picking just one favorite candy. I guess a teacher should like Smarties, but Pay Days are always nice!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Macaroni

One of my favorite songs to use for introducing the xylophones to kindergarten students is "Macaroni." I love to use this lesson, because it offers several activities at once. Therefore, all students are engaged throughout the game and I can work with a couple of students at the instruments. This game is so popular, that we vary the lesson slightly and play it again in first grade.

"Macaroni" offers the chance for students to work on the following skills:
  • Pitch-matching (sol-mi melody)
  • Steady beat
  • Galloping
  • Playing a bordun on barred instruments
I introduce the song by unveiling the PowerPoint presentation pictured above with the funny picture. I think it is important for visual learners and emerging readers to see the text as we sing songs, so I create PowerPoint slides for most of the music we learn in K-1. Although I sometimes use PowerPoint slides with all grades, I usually display actual music for them to read as they get older.

Kindergarten Version

Learn the song
  • Teach song by rote (demonstrating solfege hand signs)
  • Work on the solo at the end. Really extend the notes, so that students will have time to hear the pitch and be more successful when they sing by themselves. Use hand signs to demonstrate the melodic direction.
Prepare for Instruments
  • Explain (or review) proper technique:
    • Hold mallets like bicycle handlebars
    • Elbows out, hands a little higher than the bars
    • Strike bar in the center (not too hard)
    • Let mallets bounce like tennis balls (so bars can vibrate)
  • If this is the first time students have ever played the xylophones, I remove the bars surrounding the ones they will play so they can focus on form, rather than trying to find and strike the correct bars.
Play the Game
  • Class sits in semi-circle with two xylophones in front of the class.
  • One student gallops on stick pony while everyone sings the song and pats the beat on their legs.
  • At the end of song, student on pony stops in front of a classmate, who sings the solo part of the song. (Assess the soloist for pitch-matching and strive to at least get each child in head voice, rather than speech-mode.)
  • The pony rider then hands Macaroni to the soloist, who becomes the new rider. The first rider moves to the first xylophone.
  • Play game again with a student on the xylophone, and assist the student as needed.
  • After the next round, the xylophone player rotates to the next instrument, while the rider rotates to the first xylophone, and the soloist becomes the new rider. (Oversee the instrument players and assist, as needed. Students are usually fairly independent on their second turn at the instrument.)
  • Continue until all students have had a chance to sing the solo, ride the pony, and play two xylophones.
    How perfect that today was Cowboy Day in kindergarten!

First Grade Version

  • Review song, hand signs, and solo.
  • Use classroom set of barred instruments (if there are not enough barred instruments, add some unpitched percussion instruments into the mix)
  • My instruments are set up in 3 rows (I have 18 barred instrument). I walk through and demonstrate the rotation procedure prior to students moving to instruments.
    • Students rotate through the instruments by moving down row 1, back to row 2, across row 2 in the opposite direction of row 1, then back to row 3, and across row 3 the same direction as row 1. 
    • After the final instrument on  row 3, they move to the opposite diagonal corner of row 1. 
    • I call it "zig, zag, zig, zooooom." (The pattern is a little like a Z, zigging and zagging back and forth on the rows, then zooming from the back corner to the front one.
    • Use whatever configuration and rotation pattern works best for your space.
  • In addition to the instruments, set up 2 stations for the pony and for the solo. After the final instrument on row 3, students move to the open area and ride the pony. After the pony, they move to a microphone for the solo. Then they move to row 1 of instruments.
  • Play the game until students have moved through each spot.
Take a ride on Macaroni, the pony, and get with the beat!

    Tuesday, October 2, 2012

    Good Vibrations

    Our kindergarten students recently studied sound in their classrooms, so we enjoyed exploring sound vibrations in the music room. 
    Here is a list of a few quick and easy ways to help students experience sound waves:
    • Have each child play a gong or hand drum for a classmate to touch gently with fingertips in order to feel the vibrations.
    • Play a contrabass bar and let children touch the sound box or the end of the bar to feel vibrations.
    • Let each child play the vibraslap to see how it shakes when it makes sound.
    • Place paper clips on a conga, tubano, or gathering drum. Allow children to play the drum and watch the paper clips vibrate. I let a few children play at a time. When all the paper clips were off, their turn was over. It did not take long, and then they picked up the clips for the next group.
    • Hold a large hand drum over paper clips that are lying on the conga, tubano, or gathering drum. Play the drum with a mallet and see if the paper clips can move without touching the drum head on which they are resting. This is a good visualization of sound waves moving through the air.
    video
    • Experiment with other items on the drum, such as small finger puppets. See if the vibrations can move the items.
    • Take a string with a small loop tied in the end. Step on the opposite end and put it taut. Place pointer finger in small loop. Lean forward so string does not touch anything. Touch pointer finger with string loop directly in front of ear. (See bottom right picture in the photo collage at the top of the post.) Pluck the string and listen. Experiment with pulling the string tighter and less taut. Kindergartners need help with this activity, but older students can handle it alone. We have a classroom set of strings that we use with upper grades. They can all play at the same time. The individual can really hear their string, but it is almost impossible for the rest of the class to hear. The children love to play along with music.
    There are also some great resources available to help as you teach about sound. The Magic School Bus "Inside the Haunted House" is always a favorite with our K-3rd grade classes.
    I also found a website with listening exercises that encourage listening skills and require sound discrimination. Although I did not have time in music for these listening games, I sent a link to the classroom teachers and they seemed to like it.


    One last note: Never take anything for granted. Although most of the kindergarteners could answer that sound was caused by vibrations, when asked what vibrations are, very few could explain. The cutest answer I heard last week was that it is what bears do when they cover themselves up with leaves and sleep for the winter. Hibernation/vibration: they sound a lot alike! I'd never thought about that before. I wrote both words on the board and we compared letters. Then we discussed that when something vibrates, it shakes really fast. Of course, we had to vibrate. :)

    I hope this gives you some easy ideas to demonstrate how sound is created. These activities can be done quickly without taking an entire class period, so get shaking!

    Monday, October 1, 2012

    Pizza, Pizza Daddy-o

    "Pizza, Pizza, Daddy-o" is always a favorite with our second graders, so we have enjoyed working on this song for the past couple of weeks. Not only is it fun, but this call and response song provides many opportunities for musical growth.

    Let's Sing It

    Janet and I both begin teaching the song to our classes a cappella. We model the song and have the children perform hand signals as they sing the choral response to the solo. They experience success because we start slowly and there are only two signs for this part: sol and mi.

    Through the use of a document camera, we project the music on the screen for the children to follow. We track the music as the children sing, to ensure that children are focused on the right spot.  As students follow along, they gain skills in reading music notation. They begin to identify melodic direction, and they notice different types of notes and the locations of those notes (line vs space, step vs. skip, high vs low, etc.).

    If you need the melody of this song, Beth has it posted on her blog at Beth's Music Notes.

    Let's Move It

    After learning the song, we listen to the stereo vocal track on the 2nd grade Silver Burdett Making Music CD (1:36). The students absolutely LOVE it! (This is an African American singing game that is found in other textbook series, as well.) We have them sit while they listen at first, so they can focus on the music. We encourage students to move while seated, because it is impossible to sit still while listening and it prepares them for the next step. During the interlude, we allow them to stand up and finish the song while improvising their own movements in place.
    Next, we sit back down and teach the foot movement found in the textbook, which is basically a criss-cross while alternating the front foot during the "pizza, pizza, daddy-o." At first, we use hands to pat the foot pattern on the the floor. This helps students get the pattern before trying it with their feet. When they are ready, we stand and sing the song without the voices on the CD and perform the movements. Then we layer in the CD accompaniment.

    We do not spend an entire class period learning or singing the song. Rather, we spend shorter increments of time on several occasions, so that the song is cemented in the children's minds before beginning our next activity, which is a collaborative project.

    Let's Create It

    Children work in groups of 4 (or 3-5) and create their own lyrics for the part of the song that says, "Let's rope it" (or swim, duck, or twist). Each child is responsible for creating one command. (For groups with fewer students, the group can fill in the remaining blanks. If a group has more than 4, two students can be partners to fill in a box.)

    We discuss words that would work well and words that would not work well prior to moving into groups. We also talk about the importance of picking a word that gives a clear direction of a movement to do. "Make it" is not as specific as "Build it," and classmates may be confused about what to do. Therefore, they should choose more descriptive words for their lines of the song.

    Before beginning the project, we give the following guidelines:
    • Each student is responsible for his/her box on the form. 
    • The group should discuss each member's choice, but peers should be supportive. If the word is an appropriate choice, then they use it. If it does not work for some reason (i.e. not an action verb), the students must respectfully explain why and let the child pick a new word. 
    • The group shares one pencil, and each child writes his/her own response. This maximizes group participation, rather than one child taking over the project.
    • It is a cooperative project, so students should be kind and work well together.
    After the group completes the form, they create movements for each line and practice leading the song. Finally, each group stands in front of the class and leads the song using their created lyrics. It is a good idea to have a music stand for their forms, so they will be confident as they lead the class.

    Let's Play It

    From singing, moving, and creating lyrics, we will soon transition to playing instruments. After being told that sol is a G, students will explore the barred instrument to find mi. It may help to point to hand signals that are posted in order to demonstrate that mi is two steps down from sol.
    http://www.southernortherner.com/p/my-drawings.html
    Next, we will sing the song and play the sol-mi patterns of the chorus parts. When they are successful and ready for a new challenge, we will have them find la-sol-la and play that pattern whenever it occurs in the solo part. Finally, we will divide the instruments and have one group play the call and the other play the response.

    Singing, moving, creating, and playing. "Pizza, Pizza, Daddy-o" has it all. 2nd grade is having a ball! Can you tell that I'm having a blast, too? :)

    Friday, September 28, 2012

    Dress it Up

    As teachers, we all like to motivate, inspire, and even entertain our students. Our classrooms can help us do all three. Creating an inviting environment that children want to enter is an easy way to get them excited about coming to class. Below are some ideas for dressing up a music room.

    Hallway Inspiration

    Our classrooms are in a wing of the building that was constructed a few years ago. The hallway was sparkling clean, but very bland. I found several adorable printables of inspiring quotes from Shannon at Technology Rocks Seriously. The link to the printables is below.

    Our art teachers had a quote they wanted to use, so I created one to blend with the others. I was able to do this because Shannon provided great info on fonts that she likes to use in her prints. I picked up a few mats and black frames from Hobby Lobby, and now we have a wall of inspiration over the water fountains in the hallway. They are the first thing the students see when they enter the hall from the stairwell. The framed prints really brighten the space and give students something to read and think about while they stand in line for water after physical education class.

    If you like these printables, you can find these and many more at:

    If you would like to create custom printables like these, read Shannon's post:

    Make an Entrance

    Our rooms are side by side, and we like to create unity by decorating our entrances the same. This year, I wanted to try out an idea I saw on Pinterest. These window treatments were a breeze to make and required no sewing.
    Mounted between the doors is our school mission statement. I used the same fonts that are in our Star Student posters, plus a couple more that you will find in Shannon's favorite font list in the post linked above. I think the fonts fit the personality of the mission statement. I printed it on cardstock and taped it to a canvas that I had previously painted for my daughter. Fortunately, she no longer wanted it, and it matched perfectly! Your mission statement or quote could also be printed with a border, such as black with white polka dots, so there would be no need for a painted canvas.
    If you are interested in making streamer curtains like these, visit Maggie at Black and White {Side by Side} for directions. For reference, I purchased 1 yard each of 4 lightweight cotton prints, and 1 yard each of 2 colors of tulle. That was enough fabric to create the treatments for 2 doorways. I ripped the cotton fabrics into strips, but had to cut the tulle with scissors. I put the fabric strips on tension rods with the idea of mounting them inside the door frame. However, our door frames are metal, and two heavy duty clip magnets from Office Depot allowed us to mount them a little higher. These could be used for window treatments, as well.

    Frame It

    These hanging frames were created from a 4x8 sheet of foam insulation (the pinkish purple kind found at home improvement stores). I cut the frames with a jigsaw, but you could use a sharp knife. Next, I painted them with craft paint. Spray paint eats the foam (I learned the hard way), so stick with craft paint. It's cheap and available in a plethora of colors.
    These frames were originally made to use as decorations for a tool shower. There were saws, pliers, and such hanging inside. I brought them to school, found instruments to fit in each frame, and put 3 on each side of the screen at the front of the room. A tiny hook in each of the top corners allows them to be hung with picture frame wire that is attached to the frame of the dropped ceiling.

    Cute & Functional

    Sometimes, Janet and I take our classes out of our rooms. Whether it is next door to meet together, outside to practice recorders, or down to the auditorium for a rehearsal, it is important to let students and teachers know where we are. We used to jot out notes on index cards or Post-it notes before rushing off with our class. Finally, we realized that we could just print and laminate signs for places we consistently go. We picked up some cute cards from an invitation shop and printed the signs and laminated them. Now we keep them on our whiteboards in a clip magnet, ready to pop on the door as we leave. 

    Bright & Cheery

    A well-placed pop of color or humor can draw a child's attention. My students sit on the floor, so this flower friend is right at their level, smiling at them every day. In addition, I painted this bright flower and added a quote about excellence to inspire students to work hard every day.

    Keeping it bright...
    I wrote about this table in Make Your Furniture Rock. It provides a fun sitting area that serves as a reward for hardworking students. The cabinet was also a makeover several years ago. It began as an old, battered, army green metal cabinet. I covered it with white contact paper and added vinyl decals. It's still not my favorite, but it will suffice. It provides great storage, and at least it is bright now!
    Speaking of bright...my room has 9 windows! The back wall is completely filled with windows. Adding these valances really made the space much cozier. I used bulletin board paper to make a pattern with waves that would be opposite when the fabric folded over a tension rod, so the contrasting fabric would peek through. Each window is about 42" wide. 1 yard of fabric and 1 yard of contrasting fabric was used for each window.
    These are just a few things that I hope brighten the day for my students, since their smiles brighten mine. :)

    Have fun dressing up your space!