Teachers Pay Teachers is Awesome

Posted by Nicole

If you haven't already heard about Teachers Pay Teachers, it's high time you should. This is an amazing resource for educators and by educators. The basic premise is that you can upload any and all files you've created for your classes and classroom and sell them to other teachers. If you need something, someone's probably already created it. There are many free listings too! It's worth checking out, no matter what subject or grade level you teach. I've just started this week uploading some of my creations for beginning band and already had multiple views and downloads. If you're interested, please check out my store. I have a few sets of free flashcards as well as free planner and calendar templates. I'd love to get some feedback to know what you'd like to see next!

This last year, my middle school printed some AMAZING planners for each teacher. Now, I've had my fair share of planners and free calendars, but let me tell you why this one blew the others out of the water. This calendar had EVERYTHING already printed- every grading period, school holiday, meeting, concert, athletic event, testing date, EVERYTHING. It was the only thing that got me through this year. Now, at my new school, I don't get one quite that awesome, so I've taken it upon myself to have ones printed for my band staff. I've started with a basic template which I've provided for FREE for you below. From here, I'm going to add our school calendar, "red" and "black" days, band events, and entry deadlines. Once I have that done, I'll send it to our print shop and have it laminated and bound for our staff. 

In the meantime, here is a link to my brand new Teachers Pay Teachers shop. I don't have a whole lot in there just yet, but in the upcoming weeks, plan on seeing some great new beginning band resources. Click the Pic!


App Review: Band Pad

Posted by Nicole

This last weekend, I got to be a part of #edcampWT hosted at my former school. We had educators from all over Texas join us to learn from each other about how we are using technology in the classroom. I love the challenge of taking all the ideas I learn and applying them to the band classroom. I recently got an iPad to continue my exploration into iOS apps, so now I'll be able to research and share technology ideas across all devices and operating systems! Without further adieu, Band Pad!

I came across BandPad simply by searching for band related apps in the App Store. It is important to know that while I found this for iPad, it can be used on any device or browser, so you aren't tied down to any particular device. There is a free portion to the service, but you can also upgrade and get more features. 

When you first open the program, you'll see a list of free songs that you can play along with. Most are simple melodies that would already be in your beginner book, but there are also MANY foreign melodies, perfect for your cross-curricular learning standards!

Once a song is selected, you will see the melody on the screen, and you have the option to change not only the instrument, but the key as well. As you play along with the track, each note is highlighted and the fingerings are shown on a chart as the song progresses. You have the option to slow down the melody to practice, play it as normal, or to play without a helper track.There is a built-in tuner in the interface as well as the option to add in note names below the notes. 

If you sign up with a teacher account, you can assign certain songs, print them out, and even display them through projectors or whiteboards to use in class. Students can earn trophies and compete against themselves and their other classmates.

Verdict: This app is very cool, especially for beginners. It reminds me of Smart Music, but the fact that it's lightweight and free gives it a little advantage. If I were still working with beginners next year, I would definitely look into using it for extra credit or motivation to practice certain lines. It does have its limits, but given that the base account is free, it's worth checking out!




Using Instagram in the Classroom

Posted by Nicole

I like to pretend I'm knowledgable about social media, and I try to stay up-to-date. When I started teaching, I found out very quickly that was not the case. Kids these days are using social media in different ways than we could possibly imagine, and the trends are rapidly changing. My second year teaching, my students told me I had to get an Instagram account, so I did. They had to show me how to use it, what to do, how to comment, and all the other quirks of the app. It wasn't long though and I had it mostly figured out. The majority of my students use apps like Instagram (not Facebook like us old folk), so I decided to use it to reach them where they were. Here are quite a few examples of how to use Instagram in your classroom! They're band-focused, but you can use them in any subject area easily.

Before we go much further, I do want to advise you to check with your disctrict on their social media policies. You'll need to check to see what the rules are for posting students' pictures, names, and information. At my last district, I could post pictures and names, but my current district has a few more regulations. Consider making a classroom account separate from your personal account, and I highly advise that you DON'T follow students. You don't want to be responsible for seeing what they may choose to post.

1. Real-World Application

My husband traveled to England last year, and I used his remaining change to show kids the "When am I ever going to use this?" of math, even though music is my main subject. The kid who guessed first got one of our leftover pence. You could use this for all sorts of real-world applications for your subject!

2. Reminders

Remind your students when they need to bring supplies for a project or papers that had to be signed. Nintendo trash talk is optional.

3. Bragging on Accomplishments!


When your club, team, or class does something awesome, brag on them! This could be groups or individuals. You can highlight projects, student work, or if your district allows, pictures of the students themselves!

4. Further Education

Keep kids interested by showing them how your subject is being explored in the real world. While I was gone to the TMEA convention, I posted frequently about the musical experiences I was having. This would work especially well for science teachers going on nature walks, coaches traveling to professional games, reading teachers at a bookstore, etc.

5. Humor and Hashtags

Take advantage of #mcm (Man Crush Monday) or #tbt (Throwback Thursday) to highlight famous characters and people from history in your subject. I did a string of composers for #mcm, but you could show historical figures or even book characters. Don't forget about silly memes you may come across. Don't be afraid to post silly things!

6. Upcoming Events

Advertise for camps, concerts, shows, and other events that may pertain to your subject area. I've posted things like concert posters, band camp flyers, and commercials from TV to tell my students what's going on in the community related to music.

7. Practical Applications

Reinforce what you've taught in class with summaries or reminders. I focused on "CNAP" with my beginners, and after a rigorous week, I reminded them how to prepare for their test. The second picture is pretty disgusting, but it was posted the day after an off-topic lecture on why you shouldn't eat right before or while you're playing. A little shock-value made it's point very quickly, and many kids washed their mouthpieces after seeing the picture!!


A few more, though I don't have examples...

  • Create a hashtag for your class or your topic. Let students post progress pictures of any projects they are working on. Create a hashtag specifically for homework help so that you can see what your students may be struggling on.
  • Encourage students to post pictures of ways they can use your subject in real-world applications (Geometry: Take a picture of something you had to measure. Reading: What is your favorite book at home?)
  • Show students that you are a teacher, but also a person. Post occasional fun pictures (within school guidelines) to help relate with students. I post pictures of my hobbies (crocheting) and my dog. It's a great conversation starter to connect with kids.
  • Take pictures of the behind-the-scenes prep work you do for your classes. It shows them how much you care about them and gives them some insight into the teaching professsion. I'll be posting from our EdCamp this weekend.

If you have any great examples, please share them!




While I've been incredibly productive and blogging quite a bit lately (THREE WHOLE TIMES!), my actual day job has been amazingly fun yet totally exhausting. Every day is an endless collection of crazy things that happen. I guess that's life with middle school kids though. So, just for fun, I present to you...

When I step out of the band hall to let the dry cleaner pick up our blazers...

When I ask beginner trumpets how many counts a half note gets...

 The trumpets' face when I finally have to use my serious teacher/mom voice on a kid...


"I don't have my instrument because..."


When checking the metronome to see our goal tempo...


"Great! You got the hang of dotted quarter notes! Let's count and clap this line..."


Wait, no we didn't understand.

When you're talking when I'm talking...


When you interrupt me with a totally irrelevant question in the middle of my lesson...


When I finally get home after a long day...

When no one is actually watching, so I conduct however I want...

When you keep your mouthpiece but switch horns with a kid so you can fix it while class is going on, and you play on it for a few minutes, then you empty the spit valve and the kid says, "Ew, that's my spit."

"Where are we?"

When teaching the beginning clarinets high C so they're better prepared for next year, but right now there's 14 kids playing a nasty high C...

"Okay, we're at the beginning. Measure 1. The very beginning. It starts with percussion. The rest of you have rests! Make sure you count them. Don't play on beat one! Okay, measure 1, here we go, beginning-two-three-four... *toot*"

When you're having an okay morning, but realize you forgot to submit grades, lesson plans, and update your class webpage, which were all due four hours ago...

When the flute players are getting sassy...

The Alto Saxes missed the F#... again...


When I pick up a students horn to fix it and get a whiff of the smell...

When a 7th grader asked me if I knew what Pokemon was, and I did the math, and I've played Pokemon longer than she's been alive.

When middle school boys try to look cool...

When the percussionists are juggling their sticks...

When I assign a chair test TOMORROW!!!

They FINALLY got that rhythm in Moscow, 1941...

When you get an parent email that says, "You do an amazing job! My kid loves band. Thank you for all you do!"



Free Scale Sheets for Beginners!

Posted by Nicole

Today's post will be a little off the general topic of technology. I'm a little (a lot) sad that I don't get to go to TCEA 2015 this year, and so I'm sulking. I just have to keep my head high for TMEA 2015 next week! If only I could go to both, I would be so happy... Anywho, I'd like to share with you something my district has used for years with beginners in band. We have a set of beginner-specific scales. They're only five notes and they include an arpeggio at the end. I've tweaked them a bit and provided multiple octaves for different classes or instruments. While I'd love to get kids going on a full scale right off the bat, the 5-note scales are great for teaching kids how scales work and getting them used to the idea of playing them off without overwhelming them with new notes. Here's a link to my current draft of scales. Feel free to download it and use it any way you see fit in class, but please don't repost it as your own. Just link your friends here! And, like I said, this is a draft. PLEASE let me know if you find any errors or could offer suggestions for improvements. Without further adieu,

Beginner Scale Sheets!


Using Google Forms for Band

Posted by Nicole

I am all about making my life easier and less stressful. Last year, I switched our band over to all Google Apps and it totally changed the way the program ran for the better. Nearly everything that would have been paper-based was moved to forms through our band website. Forms is the best program ever. I mean it. Seriously. EVER. I made a quick video to show you the basic options you can use with Google Forms. I say quick, but somehow I manage to ramble for nine minutes at a time. Sheesh, gotta stop that. Anyways, the video shows one example of each type of question you can post, and for time's sake, I've saved the rest for here. If you're new to Forms, watch the video, but if you're a pro looking for inspiration, check out the list of ways to use it below!

Student Information Forms- Collect all the information you could possibly need on a trip with a standard Google Form sent out at the beginning of the year. Check with your administration first, because you could end up with confidential information on your personal device, but if the admin is okay with it, you could have life-saving help right at your fingertips. Ask for basic information like parents' contact information as well as any medical issues you'd need to know about. If you have Drive on your phone, you can download the responses file and have it with you at all times, even without phone service. I know from teaching in a small school that sometimes we had football games in Dirt, TX, and there was no data available, but I could still look up emergency contact information from my phone in case something happened.

  • Name, divided into one or two columns
  • Student Cell Phone (Ask your administration first, but this is handy for finding kids who wandered off at an event.)
  • Parent Contact Information
  • Medications and Allergies

Shirt Order Forms- Use a form to collect shirt sizes at the beginning of the year so you're not having to chase down every kid for their size. You can add an image of the shirt and an extra box to allow parents to order shirts as well! With the response page, all the orders are neatly in one spot.

Student Votes- Instead of passing out and counting slips of paper, use Forms to take a vote with your band. This has a variety of uses!

  • Vote on band officers or other leadership elections.
  • Students vote from their phone to pick the next movie on a bus ride.
  • Vote on one or to meals for a large trip.
  • Poll the ensemble for availability if you have to schedule additional rehearsals.

Absence Form- Have your students let you know when they'll be absent from a practice or performance by filling out a form. You then have time stamped documentation of the reason a student is absent. You can use the form to give them instructions- Use a checkbox or drop-down question to ask the type of absence (medical, family emergency, school related, etc.) and then select the option for the response to forward them to a specific page. On that page, you can tell them you need a doctor's note, a parent note, a coach's note, or whatever else you may need from them.

Instrument (Or Uniform) InventoryDepending on the size of your program, you may want to use a Form to keep track of your inventory. As you check out a horn to a student, fill out their name, grade, the brand of horn, and the serial number. Add a section for a description of any damage or equipment included. Have students with their own horns enter information as well so you can return any lost instruments that may come your way.

Music Library- We all have a partial music library Excel file, or ten, somewhere on your computer. Using Forms, you can input your library information (or have that overachieving clarinet player do it for you!!) and have an up-to-date version of your library. This is great for schools with multiple directors or campuses. Each person can go in and edit the spreadsheet or update it, and everyone instantly gets the update!

Missing Horn- If a student forgot an instrument, assuming you're not doing marching band, you can create a "Rehearsal Detective" type form that they fill out throughout class. It can include a section to explain why the horn was forgotten. You can follow that up with questions about what is happening during rehearsal. So there you go. You don't need to print off one single form next year. You don't have to collect them, find them, type them in, hunt down the six kids who didn't turn it in. You don't have to wonder what you called that file in the depths of "My Documents" or figure out what inventory.xls is the most updated file. You're welcome :)


Google Classroom for Band

Posted by Nicole

FINALLY, Google has rolled out their new Classroom feature. It syncs with Drive and Gmail, and makes organizing any assignments incredibly easy. Many districts are requiring it and transitioning to all Google Apps for Education. That leaves those of us in the band world in a bit of a bind. Sure, Docs and Sheets are great for language arts and math, but we're band. How on earth can we use it? Believe it or not, especially for smaller programs, you can do literally EVERYTHING through Google Apps. Here are a few ideas to try yourself! First off, you'll need to go to Google Classroom. Set up the classes you teach and give them a title.
Screenshot 2015-01-31 at 4.36.45 PM

Once you have your classes created, you can change the theme if you'd like. Right at the top of your class page, there's a section to add an assignment. You can attach nearly any type of file or link and give a few instructions. From the student's end, when they log into classroom, they will see that they have an assignment. It gives an option to upload their file and turn it in. Once it's submitted, you can see how many students have turned it in and how many haven't.

Screenshot 2015-01-31 at 4.39.38 PM

Now, how do we use this in band? Let me show you the ways.

Information Forms-We have to collect an insane amount of information from students. Contact information, shirt size, uniform number, instrument serial number, food preference for trips, bus seat partners, and who knows what else. Some districts have programs that have much of our students personal information built in, and some have a program like Charms, which collects band-related information. That's all fine and dandy, but if you don't have access to that software, and it can be expensive, you'll have to do all that data collecting yourself. Enter Google Forms. Simply add an assignment that is a Google Form and have each student fill out what you need. You can have them self-submit information for their checked-out or personal instruments, surveys, shirt sizes, fundraiser information, and whatever else you can come up with. At my previous job, I refused to print out paper forms unless the student didn't have access to the internet at home. If they didn't, they got a copy to fill out by hand, then had to type it in on a school computer. We collected any emergency information about students, shirt sizes, instrument inventory information, and even votes for things like shirt designs and where we might want to eat on trips. Instantly, all that information is there at your fingertips wherever you are.

Practice Records and Playing Tests-While practice records are a debatable issue, if you use them, you can upload a Form or a Sheets template and let students fill in how much they practiced that week. You may not have the option for a parent signature, but there are ways around that such as having the student fill out a template (that automatically calculates total minutes, grade, etc.) and have them print it at home for a parent to sign. For playing tests, there are a variety of ways to record from home. Students can simply upload their sound file to the assignment and you can listen on your own time. Search for online voice recorders to find quick and easy ways for students to record. There are apps and software that can record as well. What you choose is up to you, just be aware that recording, saving, and uploading a sound file may take a bit of teaching on your part so the students know how to do it. I recommend posting detailed examples in your assignment page. You can even link to a recording website that you like. Try Online Voice Recorder. I used that website in combination with a few Chromebooks to have my entire class record their tests.

Reference Recordings- With the option to assign a YouTube video in an assignment, you can provide reference recordings to students for both full-band pieces as well as instrument-specific recordings. Send your students a few recordings of the solo or ensemble they are playing so they can hear the piano accompaniment. Assign recordings of your UIL pieces and attach a Form with questions about style and musicality. Depending on the amount of devices you have available to you, you could use this idea for sub plans when you are away. Here's a video explaining this a little better...


Student Accounts- While this one may take some editing and tweaking on your part, you could use a Sheets file to show student accounts for money or fees owed. Be careful of confidentiality if you do this. Don't use a student's full name. Instead, talk to your office about using a student identification or a lunch number. Students (and parents) can see what is owed while not being able to tell who the other students are. Have each student submit their assignment as what they owe, so that you know that they've seen it.


These are just a few ways you can use Google Classroom in the band (or orchestra, or choir!) hall. If you have any questions about how to put these into practice, or you have an idea for an assignment that you need help creating, please leave a comment below!

If you remember, a while back I posted about Google's Pokemon April Fool's joke. They launched an update of Google Maps that included numerous Pokemon for you to find. If you found 150 different ones and/or found Mew, you could tweet them for a prize. The whole ordeal was drug out over probably close to six weeks from the launch date (March 31) and many people have given up hope. Eventually through /r/googlepokemon, I found that they were providing a form to fill out if you caught all 150/151. It included personal information and where you caught Mew. I filled it out and forgot about it. Occasionally, I would pop in to the subreddit, but nothing was there but disappointment. That all changed today!

 got this neat little package in the mail this morning with a note from Google and ten business cards. Unfortunately, this probably won't help me on my journey to become actually Google Certified for GAFE, but that's okay. I'll take it one step at a time. Knowing me, I'll probably put this on my resume when I apply for GAFE certification :)

After my two posts about Google Pokemon, I don't even really want to talk about it anymore. Except I have to. I have to rant about Mew. In case you have no idea what I'm talking about, Google played a great April Fool's joke on everyone by putting Pokemon throughout Google Earth. You could find up to 150, and then we all found out that Mew was hidden somewhere on Earth. I know that narrows the playing field a little bit, but it was soon determined that he was somewhere in the Amazon, as per Pokemon canon. 

Well after hours and days of searching, he's shown up in about 21 different locations around the world, the vast majority in Brazil. I've looked and looked and looked, both on my Nexus phone and iPad and still haven't managed to find him. I'm not alone though, there are a few others still Mewless on /r/googlepokemon. The deadline to find them all was at around 2am on April 2nd, but Google realized that they made the search much too hard and extended the deadline for an undisclosed amount of time. I really just want my Pokemon Trainer card from them, especially considering I also hope to be a Certified Google Trainer before long. What would be better than to have Certified Pokemon Trainer as well?!

Anyways, back to more important things. UIL is in less than two weeks with Pre-UIL being tomorrow. I feel like my students are in much better shape than they were last year. I learned more than I ever thought I knew in my first year teaching. Year two isn't a cake walk, but it's a heck of a lot better. Sometimes I beat myself up because I listen to recordings and watch my band and think they sound and behave horribly. I have to take a step back and see where we've come from and what they're actually achieving. I also have to remember that we handed a bunch of 12 and 13 year-old boys instruments and dispersed them among girls that they're starting to notice and expect them to focus for a whole class period on playing. I don't think I ever was a junior high kid because I don't understand at all how interesting rubber bands and paperclips can be, but my trombones always like to prove that they're the most fascinating thing ever. Kids are either interested in the opposite sex or in whatever random thing they brought to class to play with that day. I promise I have a collection of Rainbow Loom bands that prove it.

All-in-all, I really love my kids. There isn't one I wouldn't do backflips for. There are some days that they make me sprout more grey hairs (who am I kidding, I only have one grey hair, no matter how hard I try to not look like I'm twelve) and raise my blood pressure, but most of the time they are just busy making me smile and laugh.

Waiting on the Google Certification process to open back does not make me smile and laugh though. It seems like it's taking forever. I'm "Qualified" and must complete an unknown amount of training others, along with creating some instruction and curriculum of my own before I can apply to become certified. I wish I knew all the requirements, but the website is pretty vague about what they want out of us. Oh well, I'll just keep working on as much as I can preparing for training my district on GAFE, as well as possibly presenting at my region's technology professional development session!