Saturday, September 29, 2012

3 clues and a routine

3 Clues
hot cross buns.
loud and squeaky.
4th grade.

Anybody know what I'm getting at?

Yes, the recorder.  that beloved instrument that we all learned to play in grade school.  And yes, I earned a college degree to teach children how to play that thing. 

I currently have three 4th grade classes ranging from 26-29 students, whereas in my student teaching experience, I had 2 4th grade classes of about 14-15.  The routines my cooperating teacher, though they worked wonderfully for her, just wouldn't work for my double-sized class.  I had this vision [dramatic] of all the eager 10 year olds walking in and doing their little jobs to set up for recorder class... quick, efficient, least amount of chaos and time-wasting as possible.  So I came up with this system to assign them teams and jobs and procedures.

Lo and behold, it is working!! So here it is.

My class sits in 3 rows of 8-10, divided by an aisle like this

             X  X  X  X  X         X  X  X  X  X
             X  X  X  X  X         X  X  X  X  X
             X  X  X  X  X         X  X  X  X  X

Each half of the row is their own 'team' and I pre-determined colors and shapes: red triangles, orange diamonds, yellow stars, green squares, blue circles, purple plusses

[Side note - when I announced the team names/ colors, I was so surprised by how excited the kids were.  The first class period when I was explaining the system, I said "so this team is the red triangles..." and that row cheered.  It cracked me up!! Then I went on... "you're the orange diamonds."  They cheered - "oooo! diamonds!! orange! yay"  haha it was so funny and surprising! You might have had to be there to appreciate their level of excitement.]

In our district, the school provides recorders for kids to borrow and keep in the classroom (ugh, don't even get me started).  So each kid has a recorder number that is theirs for the year.  We'll still clean them every few classes, but somehow this is WAY less gross to me than the teachers that let all the kids in the school share recorders and clean them after every class. ew ew ew.  And yes, I've seen that. 

my recorder army
 Anyway, the things I wanted the kids to be able to do on their own were:
  • Pass out the recorders
  • Keep track of sheet music
  • Set up music stands 
  • Get new materials and pencils to borrow (rather than bringing their own pencils... which means they ALL forget pencils and have to go back and get them). 
So I came up with 5 jobs, which are of course more exciting because they have fancy military names:
GROUP GENERAL – This person is responsible for making sure everyone else in the group is completing their jobs well.   This person is also responsible for substituting for any absent group members and helping the absent group members catch up on what we did in class while they were gone.   
RECORDER CAPTAINThis person is responsible for getting recorders for each group member every day and for cleaning them up at the end of class.  The Recorder Captain must make sure nobody leaves the classroom with their recorder.
FOLDER LIEUTENANT – This person is responsible for passing out each group members’ recorder folders every day and for filing them at the end of class.  The Folder Lieutenant keeps track of who is taking their folder out of the classroom each class period.
MUSIC MAJOR – This person passes out pencils for students each day and collects them at the end of class.  This person is also responsible for passing out new materials each time they are acquired.  If someone is absent when we get new materials, the Music Major also puts the new materials in that person’s folder.  If the absent person has their folder at home, the Music Major makes sure the student gets the new materials when they get back.
STANDS SERGEANT – This person gets music stands for the group.  There always 2 people per stand.  If there are 5 people in your group, one person gets his own stand.   

On day one, I briefed the whole class with each job and showed all the kids how to do it.  I made each job sound really important and we discussed how they should pick jobs based on their strengths.  If they are a person who is very organized and has a good memory, they'd be a good folder lieutenant.  If they are cautious and work quickly, they'd be a good stands sergeant.  If they have great attendance and are good at helping other people learn things, they'd be a good group general.  Etc...

Then, I passed out one job description sheet per team

Each team discussed who would do what job - all people being in agreement was a requirement - and filled out the form.  Then, each kid cut out the small strip with his or her individual job description and taped it inside their recorder folder.  (I provide manila file folders which are kept in team hanging files in a file crate in my classroom.)  The kids filled out the bottom portion of that sheet and gave it to me - lest there be any disagreement later about who was supposed to do what.

This whole process took almost 40 minutes and we had 10 minutes left to pass out recorders, learn how to play one note, and clean up.  They left class that day SO pumped.

For the following class period, I demonstrated each person's job procedures and walked them through it one job at a time (for both set up and clean up).  For 2 more classes after that, I just had the kids do their job one at a time.  But, by the 4th day of recorder, they were able to just come in, go straight to do their jobs, and be set up within 3-4 minutes.  The part that takes the longest is getting the stands because they're stored in this annoying rack. 

A couple final thoughts...  I love that this procedure/ process is teaching them:
  • Working in a group with people who aren't necessarily their friends (we've already had some trouble-shooting with this.  I can't believe the drama starts in 4th grade!) 
  • Responsibility
  • Routines are good
  • Efficiency
  • Doing your job well because it impacts others instead of just doing the bare minimum
  • Being okay when they don't get what they want (inevitably, there was some disagreement over jobs.  It was good to help them work through that - especially since a lot of my students are missing major coping skills.  More on that another day.
I love that I hardly do anything to set up for recorder - so much less of a headache for me.  I am not even remotely tired after teaching 4th grade because they do all the work :)

They are still at the age where everyone wants to help the teacher and have an important role.  I have noticed a huge change in their attitudes towards each other and towards my classroom since the first day of school.  (Granted, there are other reasons for this adjustment too.)  But I really think they love feeling important and a part of their own learning.  I mean, who doesn't love to feel like they are important!?

And the teacher in me loves that they enjoy doing the work, learning the 'instrument' (can you call it an instrument?), practicing hard, and showing off their mad skills. 

It's going to be a fun recorder-filled year in 4th grade. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Slow Cooker BBQ Ribs

A few months ago, we had a 'home style BBQ' going away party for some friends - Mac and cheese, green bean casserole, and of course, BBQ ribs.  Somehow I volunteered to do ribs (moment of weakness?) which I had never made before.  But every decent wife has to learn to cook ribs sometime, right?  I heard of doing them in the crockpot, but I have to admit I was super nervous.  Generally, while I hope recipes turn out good enough to eat, I'm not that disappointed if they are a flop.  But since everyone was so excited for ribs, I felt a little pressure to make sure they were tasty.  I had NO idea what I was doing.  I scoured the reviews on all and asked the guy at the grocery store for help picking out the ribs.  haha

I finally landed on a crockpot recipe and just decided to go for it - worse case scenario, they are ruined and we order pizza.

They turned out awesome!! The meat literally fell off the bone (which apparently is a good thing!?) and people were raving.  Phew.
So, here's the recipe.... 

4 pounds pork baby back ribs
salt and pepper to taste
2 C. BBQ sauce*
1 C. ketchup*
1/2 C. packed brown sugar
2 TBSP vinegar**
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 dash hot sauce (to taste)
Garlic Powder
Onion Powder

*original recipe called for 2 C. Ketchup and 1 C. Chili sauce but all the reviews said that was too "ketchup-y." 
**original recipe called for 4 TBSP vinegar but all reviews said that was way too much and they cut it back a lot.  I don't remember how much I put in, but I'm just guessing 2 TBSP or less is probably enough.

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
2. Season ribs with salt and pepper, place in a shallow baking pan.  Brown in the oven for 15 minutes, turn and brown another 15 minutes.  Drain fat
3. In a medium bowl, mix together all other ingredients (sauce).  Place the ribs in the slow cooker (I cut them into mini-slabs of 3 or 4 ribs each).  Pour the sauce over ribs - turning to coat.
4.  Cover and cook on low 6 to 8 hours, until ribs are tender.

I vaguely remember putting them in the oven before the slow cooker, but maybe not for the entire 30 minutes.  Honestly, I don't remember :) Happy experimenting! 

p.s. here's a link to the original recipe on

Saturday, September 8, 2012

paint chip mobile

I've been spotting cute DIY mobiles made from paint chips all over the internet.  I can't decide whether to do one color or multi colored.

The Earth Spectrum Mobile - Chandelier

If I did multi colored like above, I'd probably use these colors...



Pray AND...

I've been wanting to share this for a while now, but wasn't quite sure how.  So here it goes.

At the beginning of June, we had a sudden realization that we were heading into a season where finances would be tight.  And by tight I mean, income just would not pay the bills.  It happened because of a series of events at one time - I took a new job and would be cutting back on piano.  But wouldn't receive the new job's pay for a couple months.  Ben is paid on a 10 month stipend for his work for the university so he wouldn't be getting paid.

Can I be honest?  My first instinct was to pray AND budget budget budget!  [note - 'pray AND do something' is not always the best sign of faith.  Next time step one will be - just pray.]  I knew the Lord would provide and I like budgeting anyway (spreadsheets, numbers, it's just fun to me.  weird, i know.)  so I just kept redoing it over and over.  Cutting back wherever possible.  Okay, we'll eat rice, frozen vegetables and pasta for 2 months.  Okay, we'll cancel they gym membership and the $8 netflix account.  
As my awesome budgeting skills did not seem to be solving our problem, I felt slightly overwhelmed.  And I realized ... while I had prayed, "okay, Lord, I know you're going to take care of this," my actions immediately following that prayer (trying to solve the numbers myself) proved that I didn't really trust him.  I needed some faith.  And that little verse I've heard in church so many times came back into my mind - faith comes by hearing, hearing the word of God. 

So I went in my room and opened my Bible to Matthew 6 and started reading.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where theives break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your trasure is, there your heart will be also.  The eye is the lamp of the body, so if your eye is healthy, the whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad your whole body will be full of darkness.  If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!  No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other or he will be deovted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and money.  Therefore, I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on.  Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than they?  ANd which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?  And why are you anxious about clothing?  Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore, do not be anxious saying "What shall we eat?" or "What shall we drink?" or "What shall we wear?"  For the Gentiles seek after al these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you.  Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.  Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.  

Let's just say, that passage I had heard oh so many times made me weak in the knees.

{more to come tomorrow}

Friday, September 7, 2012

quitting coupons

i gave up on couponing.
it wasn't an executive decision... it just kind of happened.
the main reason is that we don't really eat food that has coupons.

fresh food doesn't have coupons (produce, deli meat, chicken, beef, etc...)
generic brand snacks don't have coupons (crackers, chips, salsa, etc...) and the store brand is almost always cheaper than the name brand even with a coupon.  or it turns out to be the same price and i'd rather not waste the time.
most dairy doesn't have coupons (milk, eggs, cream)

the exceptions to my 'no couponing' are... i keep an eye out in the weekly papers for paper products and toiletry coupons because we have brand preferences (i.e. cleaning product, toilet paper, shampoo, razors, etc...)  If I'm really on my 'A' game, I try to combine a coupon with a sale price.  I do almost all shopping at walmart b/c they'll match other store's prices and I can use my coupon there so then I don't run around town like a crazy lady.

The other exception is once in a while a coupon means a treat like really good ice cream or OJ or coffee or something we're kinda picky about.  I'll spot a coupon for some specialty coffee roast and pick that up because it happens to be a dollar cheaper. 

One other reason I stopped couponing... it made my grocery list mysteriously longer.  I'd be looking at coupons and think, oh yeah, we do need that pasta sauce or those pillsbury crescents.  Then I'd forget I bought those b/c I had no recipe for them and... wasted.

I'm sure there is a way to coupon where you save money but it just wasn't workin' for me, so meh, I let it go.

oh, I should mention...I love retail coupons.  as in, I hardly ever walk into old navy or kohl's or the gap without a 20% off coupon because you can ALWAYS find them online :) and what's not to love!!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

are all the children in?

i've heard this poem mentioned twice lately and i have it on my mind...

I think as the night draws nigh
Of an old house on the hill,
Of a yard all wide and blossom-starred
Where the children played at will.
And when the night at last came down,
Hushing the merry din,
Mother would look around and ask,
"Are all the children in?"
'Tis many and many a year since then.
And the old house on the hill
No longer echoes to childish feet,
And the yard is still, so still.
But I see it all, as the shadows creep,
And though many the years have been
Since then, I can hear mother ask,
"Are all the children in?"
I wonder if when the shadows fall
On the last short, earthly day,
When we say good-bye to the world outside,
All tired with our childish play.
When we step over to Jesus' Land
Where mother so long has been,
Will we hear her ask, just as of old,
"Are all the children in?"

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

how to walk into the room

disclaimer: this is a teacher-y post.

one thing i learned from both of my (awesome) cooperating teachers during student teaching is.... procedure, procedure, procedure.  and every good teacher i have ever seen has lots of procedures.  (why didn't they teach me this in college!?)

procedures for...
sharpening pencils
walking in
walking out
sitting down
standing up
passing papers
moving to the floor
writing your name

because when you have 25 6-year-olds in a room, well, you can imagine...

i have noticed there is a serious lack of music-teacher blogging going on, so maybe I'll somehow be able to use this to connect with others.  (i think media/tech + music teacher doesn't necessarily go together, understandably.)  hence, the teacher-y post.

so for teacher-y people who read this blog (or my mom who is kindly interested in everything i say - or at least pretends to be) I will describe some procedures I use in elementary music.

how about something basic like walking in the room? (oh yes, walking needs a procedure. haha

 K-2 enter in their straight line.  They walk their line through the room until everybody is in through the door.  I call people who look 'ready' to be in music class to go to their seat.  (I call them one by one.  This helps me learn names too!)  For the first SEVERAL music classes we watch each person or 2 walk to their seat and I point out all the right things they are doing (walking as opposed to running; walking around the chairs as opposed to moving chairs out of the way; not moving their seat out of it's spot in the row, etc...).  By now, all the kids have learned how I would like them to walk to their seats in my room.  It is safe and efficient.  Procedures mean minimal time-wasting.  Of course, this whole process sounds like it 'wastes' a lot of time, but in the long run, it is VERY beneficial.  It takes 5 minutes the 1st day of class when I have to learn their names and assign seats.  Other days it takes 2 minutes.  By the 6th or 7th week of school, it will take 30 seconds.  So worth it.

3-5  For the first few music classes, they did the same line procedure.  (one by one with me pointing out the way they should walk to their seat.)  This was to help me learn names, and because you just can't take for granted that they will enter your room like people (as opposed to crazy hyenas.)  In some classrooms, they are allowed to run to their seats, so I explain the first day the way I would like them to come to their seats in music every time.  If I see somebody do it wrong (by choice or accident), I simply say "the correct way to go to your seat is _______.  Please go back and try again."  After the few few music classes, we have 2 days where they stay in their line and I shorten the procedure to this: "please look around the room.  think about where your seat is.  when you walk to your seat, please be polite to those around you and careful not to mess up the beautiful rows of chairs.  give it a try."  and they all go at once.  this usually works out great and i shower them with praise.  for the next few class periods, i greet them in the hall, remind them of the walking-to-your-chair procedure and tell them they may head to their seat when they enter the room immediately.   Eventually, they can just come in and sit down the way I'd like them to.

step-by-step directions + practice, practice, practice = good procedure.

a 3rd grade teacher observed her kids stacking the chairs in my room to make room on the floor and said 'wow! that is a well oiled machine!"  she might as well have given me a christmas present :) that was HIGH praise :) it made my day!!

i love procedures. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

painted dressers

I've been toying around with nursery ideas, as I mentioned a couple days ago and one thing I'd like to do is a paint a dresser that will function as a changing table/ storage/ dresser.

These are some fun ones I've seen on the internet in all my time-wasting research.

from young house love - stained a $30 craigslist dresser and added a white top!  cool and classy but I probably will end up painting instead of staining.  one day when i'm fancy and have lots of time, i'll stain so it looks pretty like this.

i LOVE the color of this one! so cheerful :)

loving the yellow


I also like varieties of turquoise/ teal/ aqua/ what-have-you
not a very good shot but you get the idea.... source

this one is a good color but I really love how pretty the dresser is 
again, not the best pic, but you get the idea.

so what do you think? green, yellow, turquoise, other??
I'm hoping to do pale gray walls but we

flag waver

I have a friend who describes himself on facebook as "Flag Waver. Door Opener. Sail Pointer. Light Shiner."  Somehow I stumbled across that description the other day and it got me thinking...
How do I describe myself? 
What is most important about me that I want others to know and see? 
And, if I describe myself as, for example, a light shiner, would others agree or disagree? 
It's not that what others think about me is so important.  Rather, it is important that my understanding of who I am and what is important to me is equivalent to what I portray to those around me.  Lord help me not to be fake - to think I'm a light shiner and door opener and yet everyone around me would raise their eyebrows and mutter to themselves "more like a light killer, door slammer in your face."

God has declared me righteous, precious, his child.
I also have roles as wife, teacher, daughter, friend, sister, and mother-to-be.
But I want to be careful about not letting roles define me.  I want to be who God has made me and do what he has called me to do in every role, regardless of when or where.  I want to be a "flag waver.  a door opener.  a sail pointer. a light shiner." 

These thoughts are still roaming around in my mind but I have nothing more to say about them right now...


Monday, September 3, 2012


i am so thankful to have a job.  a job doing something i love that i feel i am gifted to do... teach.
it is definitely the right thing for us for this season.

but there are things in my life that are being neglected so i can do work well.
and it's okay.  it's part of life.  give and take. you can't do everything.

some things that aren't happening lately are...
cleaning - beyond a quick clorox wipe after cleaning up after dinner
cooking - this is important.  we can't eat crap all the time. i'm working on finding the energy to cook after dinner.
reading books - miss it.
reading blogs - i'm okay with it.
crafts - meh it's a nice idea but SO not important

things that are top priority even though i'm working full time (and by 'top priority' i mean, i am learning how to balance and make work happen around these things that God has called me to do well in.) 
bible study

needless to say, my 'to do' list is long and things get crossed off very infrequently.  on the other hand, it creates simplicity in a way... get up, go to work, come home, see my husband, go to sleep.  & repeat.  there's not much time for wasting and weekends are such a fun treat.  

changes are hard to process sometimes.  i'm not sure what to think about it all yet. just taking life one day at a time, choosing joy always, working hard, and relying on the Lord.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

fall is around the corner...

in no particular order, top 10 reasons fall is my favorite season

10. perfect weather - cool, no humidity, but not too cold
9. sweaters
looks comfy. oh wait, $686.  maybe i'll wait for the target knockoff?
source  and no i would not spend a fraction of that on a sweater...

8. pretty leaves
7. cute boots & other fashion goodness. this might be my favorite season for fashion.  layers are necessary but it's not too cold.  
Fall dreaming

6. caramel apple cider 
i love the stuff at starbucks but this season i'm going to try to make it :)
5. my birthday

4. college football [yes, honestly, i enjoy watching the games.  it's a relaxing way to spend a saturday afternoon.  although i'm okay not to spend thursday and friday and saturaday AND sunday watching football. haha. plus my husband is SO SO happy.]

3. back to school

2. thanksgiving

1. this year, fall means we are that much closer to baby girl coming :)

what's your favorite season?
are you excited for fall? 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

toothpick rhythms.

we don't often use books but they do have some cute songs and the kids love it when we get to use them to sing a song!  (plus the music reading skills are good) :)
1st time with books for 2nd graders... you may or may not be surprised to know there are so many things to learn about how to use a book in 2nd grade.  (oh, that's half the room!)

2nd and 3rd graders are combined at one of my schools.  I'm still not sure how to teach this group.  these pictures are of them working on rhythm with toothpicks and cheerios.  first, we all create the same rhythm and practice clapping it.  then, they get to create their own and show me when they know how to 'perform' it.  my principal walked in during this activity and it was surprisingly quiet and nearly all the kids were doing their work.  i have some... interesting... kids in this class, so let's just say that moment was a miracle.  she looked at me and smiled and said 'you are brave. very brave'  haha!!

they can be crazy sometimes and i'm not really sure how things are going.  we'll evaluate in a couple months.
but, pretty cute, huh?