Saturday, June 27, 2015

Stars and Stripes

When I think about July 4th, I think about our American Flag and what it represents. So, I asked my class what this day means to them. A young boy stated, “It’s when you get to see fireworks." This is one of the responses I expected, so I asked why do we have fireworks? He just shrugged his shoulders. Another student  responded and said, “To celebrate our Independence from England.” Great answer I told him. I explained that before the Declaration of Independence was signed, John Adams imagined a huge fireworks display as part of the occasion, and made it happen.  On July 3, 1776, in a letter to Abigail Adams, he said that our independence should be celebrated “with pomp and parade, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward, forever more.” The first fireworks display began on July 4, 1777.

What does the American Flag mean I asked a bit later. and sadly, no one knew the answer.  I told them that the flag is made up of thirteen horizontal stripes representing the thirteen original colonies and the stars represent the fifty states of the Union. they knew that. They had no idea what the colors represented, someone said red was for the blood that was spilled during the war. which was an excellent conclusion.  I told them that the red represented hardiness and valor, the white represented purity and innocence, while the blue symbolized vigilance, perseverance and justice. As a homework assignment, I had them look up those words and then write them in sentences that had to do with July 4th.

We also had a talk about how to care for the flag. Most of them knew that the flag should be taken down at night and not left outside during inclement weather. They didn’t know that the flag was never to touch the ground. All in all, it was an interesting discussion.

Parents and teachers if you’d like your children to learn about the meaning of Independence day in a fun way, take a look at this YouTube Video. 

Being born in the U.S.A, we take for granted what we have. We expect to be able to say what we want, vote for the candidate we like, live where we want, worship in our own way, dress how we like and marry who we want. There are so many other countries in the world whose people are oppressed and have no idea what “Freedom of Speech” is because they don’t have it. In so many countries women truly are second class citizens with very little freedom.  I am so proud to be an American and very happy that I was born here. How about you?

I’ve included this 4th of July freebie for you to enjoy. Feel free to download it and please leave feedback...



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Saturday, June 20, 2015

Music in the Classroom

Music has always been very near and dear to me so this is a great topic to write about. From day one of my teaching career, I used music in my classroom. Even though I’m not a musician, by any means, I can plunk some notes on the piano, and play very rudimentary guitar chords and notes.

My first job, I was working with mentally challenged teenagers who had very low IQs. I began playing songs on the piano to help them learn, each day we would sing the alphabet song, low and behold they were learning their alphabet letters. They just loved when I brought the guitar into school so we could sing together. Of course, they were the only ones that I would play the guitar for, they didn’t realize that I really couldn’t play. We did have fun.

Each day at 10:00 I would turn on the TV show the Electric Company. I felt that the class would learn more by listening to the catchy little tunes and lyrics for words, letters and numbers, than they would if I used the usual methods for teaching reading and math. Don’t get me wrong, I did use phonics, etc., but for these kids who would never progress much more than a2nd or 3rd grade level, it worked. They loved it.

A few years later, I had a self-contained class for children with severe psychological problems. They were too disruptive to remain in the regular classroom. Talk about challenging!!! Well, music does calm the savage beast. I would play classical, or quiet tunes and the kids, for the most part, would calm right down. As a reward, I would let them bring in some of their own music to share.

On to middle school to teach 6th grade which is my true love. The language arts program has songs to accompany each new unit.For the beginning of each ELA class they always asked me to put on the CD so that they could sing the song that went with what was being taught. The kids especially loved the Noun Song, the lyrics and tune was very appealing. They would even walk down the hall singing it and I would hum it to myself. I guess the point that I’m trying to make is, music really helps kids learn and they don’t even realize it. I would also play music during study hall, or while the kids were taking a test to help them relax.

Another interesting way to use music in the classroom is to have them write poetry or do creative writing to classical music. First, have them close their eyes and listen. Tell them to let the melodies take them to a special place. They can then describe it in their work, they can say how it made them feel, or who if anyone was there, what happened, etc. My classes just love this activity and they also like sharing their creations with each other. This also makes for a good bulletin board.

I so enjoyed directing plays with elementary and middle school children. As I said before, I don’t really play an instrument, so I sought the assistance of the music teacher who was more than willing to help. We always had a great time and it amazed me to see how talented some of those kids were. They just shined during the performances and were able to belt out the songs which always gave me chills. Talk about dancing, that was another thing that blew me away. It was awesome to see them move and groove to the tunes. Talk about America’s Got Talent, well, these kids sure had it.

So, as you can see, music can be used as an introduction to a lesson, as a way to help children learn and memorize things. Students can do research about musicians, composers, directors, and write reports about them. They can learn about music throughout history as part of an ancient history unit. If you’d like to see more ideas about how to integrate music into the curriculum. Here is a link to a great website:

 I’ve created a Back to School Binder that will be using the song“Getting to Know You.” from Rogers and Hammerstein's hit musical The King and I, as a stepping stone to help make students feel at ease while getting to know each other.

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