I am so happy that when my students come to my class they expect to sing and dance and play instruments.  After all, we are musicians and we make music!  Making music is beautiful and making music is FUN!
But even musicians have to get out pencil and paper sometimes and ya’ll, I’m not lying when I say that I’ve had students cry about it…..Sooooo – I’ve gotten sneaky!

When a student asks me what we are going to do I always say a variation of this “Oh, today, is a SPECIAL day!, I’ve got something extra special planned just for you that I know you will enjoy”.  That way if we are singing and playing = Hurrah! If we aren’t singing and playing for the entire class = Hurrah!   They are happy and I’m happy and then I get out the SPECIAL supplies…… are you ready????

“Special” assignments: 

Not every written assignment is special….Only special assignments get special supplies.  When I say “Special” assignments, I mean the ones that you need to do that are going to smell a whole lot like….dare I say it…. “school work”……(gasp!)  I mean, the ones that might elicit grumbles of “Hey! This is Hard!” . I typically use the “Special” supplies when our activity is verging on “note taking”….  When I ask my students to write out the notes and their duration, that is “SPECIAL”.  When I ask my students to write a reflection on yesterdays performance that is “SPECIAL”.  When I ask my students to create a vocabulary chart, or a fingering chart for recorder, those are both “SPECIAL”.  The assignments where I’m going to get to work with individual students who need some one on one time and where I may ask some students to be a buddy to another students….. Those are all “SPECIAL”.

“Special” supplies: – It’s amazing how much harder my reluctant learners will work when they feel special. 

Special paper: – I use left over copy paper for “SPECIAL” assignments.In Houston we have humidity and humidity is the death of copy paper.  Humidity is especially lethal to that last 10 pages from a ream of salmon paper used for a note home from the PTA.  There are handfuls of left over colorful copy paper all around and because they aren’t in reams they are very difficult to use in the copy machine without causing a jam.  So that riotous rainbow of otherwise unusable copy paper becomes my opportunity to bless my students with something pretty.  Ever now and then when I am running low, I’ll buy a colorful ream, but I rarely need to, I just always make sure I have enough for 1 grade level to be “special” at any given time.


Special pens – I found some colorful pens at the dollar store and so I bought a couple of class sets.  They work even better than the special paper, so if I have a particularly reluctant group, we may just use the special pens and call it happy. These work particularly well with older grades who may need to label their scores.

Special pencils – Mechanical pencils – I only buy these at the dollar store because they might not last the class, but I get nice neat work when I would have otherwise received  scribble, so I’ll take it.

Special effort is worth special regard – Music teachers don’t have as much tangible written work to display as other teachers because most of our work is “you had to be there” work….. BUT, when we do give the time to our students to create a valuable paper product, we should display it.  As you may remember from previous posts, last year my 4th grade recorder experience was consistently poor, I’d never had to work so hard to motivate children to play recorder in all of my life.  One day as an act of desperate reteaching, I got out my “special” supplies and we create a recorder “cheat sheet”.  For once my class of unpleasantly frustrated students applied themselves and really worked.  I stapled those “cheat sheets” up to my wall before class was even over because I wanted to communicate to my students that they had done well!  They got it!  They were so proud of themselves, they left puffed up like peacocks AND they finally learned those notes!

Ya’ll have an awesome day!