Teacher Planner

Teacher Planner Covers


One of the first things that I do to prepare for the new school year is to set up my planner.

Once I’ve printed and ordered my pages, I take my planner to my local office supply store and have the front and back covers laminated for durability. Teacher Planner PreviewThe lamination and the spiral binding cost me less than $10.

This year, I also decided to add pockets because I previously used binder clips and paper clips to hold materials in my planner. I love these colorful binder tabs because they complement my color scheme, and I cover them with clear glossy tape for durability.Planner photo

Once I have the planner assembled, I label the dates for my weekly spread, and I add in events from my school district’s calendar, my husband’s work, etc. I like to color code the events using repositionable flags because they’re easy to move when dates change. When I receive my class schedule, I will then label each block with class period and name. As the year progresses, it’s so helpful to keep track of what my students have done and what my future plans entail.

What is the first thing you do to prepare for your new school year? How do you keep track of your lesson plans?

Lesson Learned

When I was a sophomore in high school, I eagerly anticipated the posting of the cast list for the school musical. I thought my audition had gone well (except for my not-so-fabulous dancing skills), and that I might even have a chance of getting a speaking role.

When I didn’t see my name on the list, I was surprised and incredibly disappointed. Trying to be proactive, I went to the drama director’s classroom that week to ask her what I could improve upon for the following year’s audition. I expected she would agree with me about my not-so-fabulous dancing skills. Instead, she paused for a moment before saying,

“You may want to work on your singing.” She said something else about talking with my chorus teacher about perhaps taking a chorus class.

She must have seen the crushed expression on my face because she then asked, as an afterthought, “Are you in chorus?”

“Yes,” I stammered, trying to maintain my composure and not cry. “I’m in Chamber Choir.” Chamber Choir was the school’s 14-member premier choir of the six choirs in the program. I didn’t tell her that I’d also been in All State Chorus or that I’d had the highest audition score of the few hundred students who auditioned for our regional chorus that year.

Her eyes widened as she recognized her blunder, and she said more that I no longer recall. I thanked her and left her classroom as quickly as I could.

Her unintentional comment devastated me. Singing was my life. I already knew I wanted to be a chorus teacher. Could I even consider that now? I was filled with self-doubt. Could I believe the kind words and compliments I had received prior to this moment? My voice was ME. Part of my identity. Who was I, if not a singer?

Voice as Identity

After time had passed, I realized that I had probably caught her off-guard, she likely hadn’t remembered me or my audition, and she had grasped at a possible reason why someone wouldn’t have made the cut. I learned some vital lessons through that experience:

  • Words have the power to wound or uplift. I want my students to feel uplifted and encouraged.
  • Accuracy and honesty are essential when providing constructive feedback. When I discuss how students can improve, I try to frame my feedback in a gentle and clear manner while conveying how we can work together toward the desired outcome.
  • Rejection does not define us. Our response to rejection is how we are measured. I’m still proud of my 15 year old self for seeking constructive feedback in the midst of disappointment, but I wish I hadn’t internalized it to such a degree.
  • Always be prepared to give an answer, even if the answer is that you honestly don’t know the answer. Rubrics for assessments and auditions simplify the grading process and help me be more efficient, but they also help me provide truthful, meaningful feedback to my students.

Lessons Learned

What’s a lesson you learned the hard way that has shaped you as a teacher?

Rhythm Cards

Rhythm Cards thumbnail

When I began teaching at my current school a few years ago, I discovered that my students struggled with differentiating between subdivided beat patterns. Reading and performing these rhythms with sixteenth note and eighth note combinations were intimidating. While rummaging through my personal office supplies at home one day, I discovered many sets of 5×8 index cards and decided to create these rhythm cards for my students to reinforce these rhythmic patterns.

Ideas for learning and/or assessment activities:

1. Display the cards for full-class or individual sight reading.
They can be displayed on the chalk/whiteboard using magnets (these are similar to the ones I bought years ago at the DollarTree which are not available online), on the ledge of the chalkboard or upright piano, on music stands, on the floor, etc.
Note: These are especially handy if you are extracting challenging rhythms from your repertoire to teach in a warm-up with your students before they see the actual music. Post the rhythms, practice, add ties if needed, etc.  If the cards are laminated, you may write the counts with a dry-erase marker and re-use.

2. Composition: This is one of my students’ favorite collaborative activities! Student groups are given a number of cards (4 for 1 measure in 4/4 time, 6 for 2 measures in 3/4 time, etc.) to arrange in the order they prefer, and they must work together to read and perform it.

Suggestions on how to differentiate this activity:

  • Intentional grouping of students and/or assignment of particular rhythms
  • Come up with a “creative” way to present (my students have done dance routines, cheers, body percussion, mock conversations by adding inflection to rhythm speaking, animal noises, etc.)
  • Assign pitches to each note and be prepared to sing your pattern
    (my students use solfege syllables to aid them with this)
  • Assign words to each note and speak the rhythm as a rap

3. Aural recognition and dictation
Students are given a set of cards and must raise the card that matches the rhythm they hear. Determine if your students can distinguish between four 16th notes in a row and another rhythm with an 8th note and two 16th notes pattern. If you speak the rhythm with your counting system, are they successful in identifying it? What if you simply play the rhythm, requiring them to mentally decode the rhythm in order to match what they hear to the visual/tactile manipulative in front of them?

How would you use these rhythm cards in YOUR classroom?

These rhythm cards are available for FREE in my store here. Rhythm-Cards-thumbnailIn addition to the original 5×8 index card size, the rhythm cards are also available 2/page in the standard 8.5 x 11 size. I recommend printing several copies of the cards on cardstock and laminating them for durability.
Note: If you click the “Follow Me” button on my store, you’ll be notified when new products are posted.

I’d love to hear your ideas and feedback! Please share your thoughts in a comment below.


My Why

Have you seen the incredible video featuring Michael Jr. on YouTube? In the brief excerpt from a presentation, Michael demonstrates the importance of knowing why you do something by having an audience member sing. The result is incredibly powerful.

"Know your why" YouTube video

I was moved by this video the first time I saw it during a music-specific professional development session. How fitting for a group of music teachers to see this, I thought. I wonder how I might incorporate this into my classroom.

Less than a month later, my principal shared this same video at our leadership team meeting for all of the department chairs. The same effect was felt by my colleagues. Know your why.

Why do I teach, and more specifically, why do I teach students the art of music?

There are myriad reasons but they all distill to this: I love it.

I love sharing in the joy my students feel when we accomplish something that was challenging for us. I love watching their confidence grow as they blossom into leaders in our class. I love hearing the music they create as their voices and skills develop. I love feeling like I am where I am meant to be, doing what I am meant to do.

What’s your why?