For me, the “Back to School” phrase sends shudders up my spine and creates a bit of anxiety. So I’m always looking for fresh songs, games and teaching tips that will ease the “stress” and help me get motivated to get back to the classroom. I have dreams of the swishing sound of backpacks bouncing on the backs of clean and excited students pushing through the hallway to get to their new classes. Am I ready? Almost… I’ve been revamping my materials and refining my lesson plans for the first quarter so that I am more focused, organized and relaxed. WHO AM I KIDDING? It’s going to be crazy no matter what I do. But hopefully, the craziness will come from the sparks of learning in my students and not me going crazy! So right now are you feeling overwhelmed, frustrated or disorganized, are you freaking out? No worries-I’ve got _________________ tips for an amazing back to school Experience!
Here’s a bit of inspiration for all teachers. Just scroll to the singing part and then watch the magic unfold…pretty impressive and well just plain fun teacher inspiration!
Some of you might thrill at the thought of meeting the parents, organizing your classroom and preparing lessons. Me? I don’t like all the set up and decorating, but I do love to plan the lessons and get my teaching materials organized. So one thing that I’ve found useful is to have a regular set of lessons that I do each year with each grade level. So if you’re having the “back to school jitters” – not to worry. You are going to be okay! Kids love their teachers. Here are 5 tips that help me and I hope help you too-
Tip #1 Greet your students with a smile and they will love you. I like to stand by the door and greet them as they come into the room. I don’t talk much- Oh yeah-SMILE! They will love you.
I also sing this song as part of the “procedures” activities. When I have students march around the circle to practice lining up, I have them stop and then teach them how to stand quietly by singing this song to the tune of :
“I like the way you’re standing, standing, standing. I like the way you’re standing quietly.
I like the way you’re smiling, smiling, smiling. I like the way you’re smiling, right at me.”
I will sing this song to them using some of my “funny” voices. This brings out the giggles and helps them feel comfortable in the classroom. Sometimes I’ll have “Arp” sing to them, or use another puppet. This routine is especially helpful for Kindergarten classes.
Tip #2 Sing everything! I try to speak as little as possible-What? Yep! I record my voice in a power point or use video to teach my students the rules and expectations. Use sign language and hand actions to direct students. The first thing I do is to begin by singing a “Hello” song. There are tons of hello songs you can use for your classes. I changed the words to “This is the Way We…” and added in “hello”. Then I added in verses like “clap our hands”, “pat our knees”, “stomp our feet”. I move around the room as I sing the song and do the actions all the while encouraging the children to copy my actions.
This is an original “Hello” song I use with my 3rd graders-but you could use it with 2nd through 5th grade.
If you are interested in the music and background tracks, you can find it in the MUSIC CLASS ESSENTIALS RESOURCE
I’ve also put together a fun Kodaly “Hello” song that has teaching pages for solfege.
This song also found in the BACK TO SCHOOL MUSIC BUNDLE
And all of these resources are found in the MUSIC CLASS ESSENTIALS AND BACK TO SCHOOL BUNDLE
Tip #3 How about using some kind of prop when you are greeting students at the door? A fun hat, instrument or even puppet will work. Children love puppets and I use my friend “Arp” (short for arpeggio) to talk to my Kinder and First graders. Arp is part of the Music Curriculum that my district purchased. It’s the Silver Burdett Music Curriculum, and I love it! Some students even respond better to a puppet than to an adult.
“Arp” has a funny voice and he says things like, “Hey! Why did you wake me up from my nap? Oh–do you have some cookies and milk?” This get’s the children laughing. He also tells them that you can turn anything into a song. Then I make something up about mice and milk and cookies and singing–whatever comes out and rhymes. It’s an easy and friendly way to make your students feel welcome.
“I like milk, yes I do-I like cookies and music too! I like to sing and I like to play–I like to make music every day.”
Tip #4 Play Games. I know how important procedures and routines are on the first day of school-but I also think it’s just as important to play games. Playing games gives the students an opportunity to laugh, be a part of the group and share. Upper elementary students play “Categories”. I play very simple version on the first day. We stand in a circle and begin patting the beat. I have the words on the smart board or the white board.
In the primary grades, I like to play a game with a drum. I might set the drum in the middle of the circle and ask each child to go up to the drum and play the beat as we sing and chant their names. This way I get to practice their names and everyone in the class does too! I usually play this type of game on the second class time. I set the roll sheet in front of me and I call out the names and chant. When I play this game, I don’t go in the order of the circle as I’m trying to learn their names. Also, it keeps the students engaged because they don’t know who I am going to call out next. Playing this game also gives me an opportunity to observe the students. If they are too shy to come to the drum, I don’t worry about it- we just keep on going. Eventually everyone will come to the drum and play. I’ve also played this game using a small hand drum. This works better for second and third graders. I have them pass the drum after we chant their name. I go in the order of the circle. It’s a good way to practice names and to build classroom community.
I’ve got some free Back to School Activities in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store. Keep reading to grab the links.
Tip #5 Use breathing activities as transitions. At the end of class I ask students to walk around the circle and then line up. I then sing or chant a simple song that helps us all get calm. I will have students breathe, stand tall as a tree, touch their toes, touch their nose, wave their arms up high, catch the breeze and let it fly, plant their feet down in the ground, lift their branches way up high- I use a lot of different phrases and actions to help them transition from music class to going into the hallway quietly. For many younger students, transitions are very difficult and they need help finding a way to follow directions even though their brains might be telling them something different. I’ve found that a focused quiet down chant can make a HUGE difference in how students respond to transitions. Throughout my classes I will using the phrase, stand tall and take a big breath, just breathe—in and out. I like to use the rag doll breathing activity too. Students get a kick out of my hair flopping all over the place when I pretend to be a rag doll.
Breathing activities help the students and they help me. I don’t know how many times I’ve caught myself just hurrying through the day and forgetting to just BREATHE. Incorporating breathing movement into the routine of the class time gives me the opportunity to set a pace that is comfortable and effective for me and the students.
“KEEP CALM AND TEACH ON”
I wrote some chants and songs to help teachers with transitions and “calming down” in the classroom. It’s a Free Resource! Keep reading for the link. Teaching is stressful and children have stressful lives too– so it’s okay to take a 30 second “breather” during your classes. Shoulders down, smile on and breathe! As a General Music teacher I feel like it’s a very demanding job emotionally and physically. I’m on my feet all a day and I’m giving to 200 students a day. In and Out Music Room! By the time I sing the Hello songs, Procedures, Class Names, go over the Rules 4-5 days in a row, I’m exhausted. So taking a breathing break helps me pace myself and it gives me that 15 seconds to assess my pace and what I will accomplish during that class.
So how do I format my classes? I’ve worked out a general routine that I feel works for me. It’s flexible, yet covers the basics of the first day in class.
Here’s a general idea on how my classes look during the first week of school.
Hello Song and a little about me and my summer-
Circle Time: (Rules and Procedures)
Chants and Songs about the rules, lining up song and activity, keeping hands feet and words to yourself song and actions, Bubble Space dramatic movements and play “Scrambled Eggs” (a find your place game).
Name games for each grade, and/or “what did you do in the summer” activities.
To help you out, I made this fun FREEBIE with some line up songs, chants and several brain break activities that any teacher can use throughout the year.
Here’s a recap of this blog posts five tips on my YouTube Channel.
If you’d like to check out my BACK TO SCHOOL RESOURCES that include the first weeks lesson planning guide and all of my songs, chants and classroom management resources CLICK HERE . There’s resources for World Themed, or just songs, chants and games, or just the planners.
Thanks so much for stopping by! Wishing you the MOST successful Back to School year ever! If you are looking for some more tips and ideas you may want to read:
What are your tried and true teaching procedures, games and songs for back to school?
Thanks for stopping by,