Monday, December 17, 2012

The Caroling Continues!

Every class this week will have the opportunity to perform for others in the school as we go caroling.  See the video below for a snippit of our visit to the cafeteria.  :)

Merry Christmas and happy holidays!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Kwanzaa and African Instruments

In second and third grades we discussed Kwanzaa and played our new African percussion instruments.  The kids really like these!  Thank you again, PTA!

 A student plays the seed rattle (left) and another plays the shekere (right).

Students really like the frog quiro (left), and the agogo bell (right) has a high bell and a low bell. 

The talking drum (above) is interesting because the pitch can change.
We realized it sometimes sounds like it's talking!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Guest Bloggers: Come to Our Choir Concert!

Hello Blog Readers,

We are three students in Ms. Benson's choir and music class.  Parents, you should come to our winter concert because you get to see your wonderful children perform.  Students that are not in choir, you can come see our winter concert, too.  It is Thursday, December 13, 2012.  We will sing about eight songs.  Make sure you beg your parents to come.

Choir kids, make sure you're practicing so you can do great!

Have fun at our concert!

Buddy Class Caroling

A fifth grade class goes caroling in a kindergarten class.
A Suzuki violinist also played.
Last week was the beginning of our "Buddy Class Caroling."  Each class has a "buddy class" with which they share special activities periodically throughout the year.  All students who are able will experience caroling in the building as we visit buddies.

Students, teachers, and staff are excited about the caroling, and I look forward to filling our building with music of the holidays.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Music for Holidays Around the World

In kindergarten and first grade classes we have been learning and singing about holidays around the world, specifially Kwanzaa and Hanukkah. 

You can find more details about activities--including videos--on the "Kindergarten/First Grade" page. 

The file above is a SMART file with song lyrics and related activities. 

Happy holidays, and happy singing!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thank you, PTA!

Our wonderful PTA purchased some wonderful new instruments and materials for our music classroom!  These include the following:

  • an African talking drum
  • African gankogui (agogo) bells with mallet
  • Shenanigans folk music CD
  • African shekere
  • frog guiro
  • Latin guiro
  • African seed shaker
  • Rhythmically Moving #2 CD
Many students will be playing these instruments for the first time this week as we discuss Kwanzaa, sing songs about Kwanzaa, and play African instruments to help us celebrate.  Action photos to come.  :)

Thank you again, PTA!

Instrument Labels and "I Can" Posters

I made these instrument labels for some of our classroom instruments.  These really seem to be helping some of the kiddos remember the names of the instruments, though I do occasionally have to remind the students that the "bass" xylophone is not a fish.  :)
Here is the PDF file for the labels.

Our school district is luck to have a wonderful music specialist who oversees the organization of our music teachers.  Every year, the music teachers re-evaluate the music learning targets for our students.  We have created "I Can" statements for each grade level. 

These learning targets are not meant to limit the teacher, but rather guide instruction.  For example, my kindergarteners have almost accomplished everything on their "I Can" chart, so I will elaborate on these learning targets and move on to new ones in the first grade category.  

I have these posters in JPEG format on my K-5 pages here on the blog.  This link will take you to the PDF file to download the posters. The posters will print on multiple pages.  I taped them together, laminated, and hung them in our music classroom. 

Happy teaching!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Support Our African Drumming Project!

Through Donor's Choose ( teachers can post school-related projects for which to receive materials.  The projects are funded by donations from anyone who would like to contribute.

I created a project for our school: African Drumming.  Our students will benefit greatly from having quality African instruments to play as we learn about African music and its impact on American music.

Half of the financial support is already given by the Whitney Fund of the Community Foundation of Louisville.  This is incredible!  Thank you Community Foundation of Louisville!

To support the remaining funds for this project that all of our 750 students will benefit from, click here and donate any dollar amount.  Thank you so much for your support!  The kids will be so excited to have these wonderful instruments!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Peter, Pumpkins, Pies, and Happy Notes

I finished what I hope is a user-friendly version of a "Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater" SMART board activity.  (By user-friendly I mean that I used the snipping tool to insert pictures in order to preserve the fonts.)  :)

Click this link to download the "Peter, Peter" SMART Notebook file.

Also, I have been giving "Happy Notes" to students who do a wonderful job participating and performing in music class.  Parents are telling me that these notes mean a lot to their children, so I thought I'd pass along the idea to other teachers.

This link will take you to the "Happy Note" PDF file you can download.

I hope these things are helpful for you teachers and your students! 

Friday, October 19, 2012

SMART Notebook Rhythm Page

I posted my first SMART Notebook file on SMART Exchange.  The file isn't fancy by any means.  I just wanted a page with rhythms and rests that we have been learning and using in class, so this is what I made.  I hope it is helpful to some fellow music teachers.

Click here to see the file on SMART

P.S. The font for the SMART file is actually much cuter.  It is "MTF Peach Cobbler." Click here to go to the site and download.  When the font is on your computer, you should see the change in the font.  (That is, if the font wasn't changed through SMART Exchange.)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Sneak Peak!

Okay.  I'm excited about something I'm making for next week.  We will be seeing, singing, and playing high and low.  This is a sneak peak of a SMART board file I'm creating.  I'll post the file when it's complete! 

Have a wonderful week, everyone!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Keep moving!

The book Eurhythmics for Young Children: Six Lessons for Fall has been a very helpful resource for me lately.  Its lessons are clearly explained and organized with applied musical concepts while offering students plenty of opportunities for movement, exploration, and responding to music.  

I have modified the lessons a bit to fit the needs of our students, but overall, this book is high on my recommended list.  My kindergarten and first grade students remember the lessons and concepts taught and often ask things related to previous lessons such as, "Can we be toys today?"  "Can we do shapes today?"  See my "Kindergarten/First Grade" page for more details about how ideas from this book have been implemented in our classroom.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Updated Classroom Photos

Music Class Syllabus

I'm a little late in posting the syllabus, but here it is for your reference.  Students are doing a wonderful job in music class.  I am very impressed!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Talent: Learned or Innate?

If you haven't read The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle, you're missing out on some critical information when it comes to developing talent and mastering skills.  The sub-title of the book reads "Greatness Isn't Born.  It's Grown."  The book is filled with real-life examples and data that support the author's findings that talent is more about "deep practice" than a natural ability.

Of course, I don't want to give everything away, but I do want to list some of my favorite quotes from the book as their relevance speaks volumes to those of us who teach and learn:
  • "Experiences where you're forced to slow down, make errors, and correct them...end up making you swift and graceful without your realizing it."
  • "One real encounter, even for a few seconds, is far more useful than several hundred observations."
    • (This is one reason why I believe teacher education needs more hands-on experience in the beginning, rather than postponing experience for the student teaching semester in the final year)
  • "(2) Myelin is the insulation that wraps these nerve fibers and increases signal strength, speed, and accuracy. (3) The more we fire a particular circuit, the more myelin optimizes that circuit, and the stronger, faster, and more fluent our movements and thoughts become."
  • "...every expert in every field is the result of around ten thousand hours of committed practice."
  • It is estimated that "Mozart, by his sixth birthday, had studied 3,500 hours of music with his instructor-father..."
  • " 'Great teachers focus on what the student is saying or doing...and are able, by being so focused and by their deep knowledge of the subject matter, to see and recognize the inarticulate stumbling, fumbling effort of the student who's reaching toward mastery, and then connect to them with a targeted message.' " (Ron Gallimore, UCLA professor emeritus)
  • " attention to what your children are fascinated by, and praise them for their effort."
See for more information about the book.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

How does that song go?

We all forget song lyrics, especially if we haven't sung the song in a while, or in years for that matter.

The website below includes many songs that are used in the regular classroom and in the music classroom.  This particular page features folk songs.  We sing many of the songs listed on this link:

This website is very helpful if you or your child find yourselves singing at home and forgetting the lyrics to particular songs.  There are also short musical excerpts to listen to if you or your child need a reminder of the melody (melody: a series of pitches that move up, down and stay the same; the main part of the song).

Have fun singing!

A Wonderful First Week!

This has been a great first week in the music room!  We have been busy learning about the music class expectations, how to sit correctly when we sing, and how to move to the steady beat of a piece of music.  See the grade level pages for more information about what we've been doing this week.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

A Note for Parents and Guardians

Thank you for visiting the So La Mi music blog!  For your child's protection, no student's personal information will be posted to this blog.  Names will not be posted, nor will faces.  Recordings of performances may be posted as well as examples of student work, but identifying factors will be removed prior to posting.  This is to comply with the privacy notice of COPPA (Children's Online Privacy Protection Act).  This document can be found here:

Also, all comments made by visitors of this blog will be reviewed by me before they are posted.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask.  Visit the school website to find my email address or post a comment here on the blog.

Thank you, again, for visiting and taking an interest in your child's musical development!

Ms. Benson

Almost ready!

The music room is coming together!  There are still some things to be done and added, but here are some pictures that show what we have so far:

Welcome to Music!

iCan iPods
Learning targets for each grading period will be posted on these.

Yearly learning targets

More photos to come!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Documentation, documentation, documentation. 

These are sample assessments organized by grade level for the first grading period.  These can serve as an outline for assessments to take place over the course of the year, or may even serve as pre- and post-test formats. 

Assessments for Grading Period I

Kindergarten/First Grade Reporting

Needs Improvement
Able to demonstrate steady beat

Sings tunefully with correct pitches

Demonstrates correct rhythms (quarter, eighths)

Plays instruments correctly and musically


Second/Third Grade Reporting

Needs Improvement
Able to demonstrate steady beat

Sings tunefully with correct pitches

Demonstrates correct rhythms (quarter, eighths, half, whole)

Plays instruments correctly and musically

Respectful to self and others


Fourth/Fifth Grade Reporting

Needs Improvement
Able to demonstrate steady beat

Sings tunefully with correct pitches

Demonstrates correct rhythms (quarter, eighths, half, whole)

Plays instruments correctly and musically

Able to compose in 4/4 and 3/4 time

Respectful to self and others


Click this link to download the PDF format for these assessment rubrics.

What is one of the most effective means of assessment used in your music classroom?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Keeping Busy

Here are a few documents I've developed for my class so far:


Seating chart for each class
MUSIC Guidelines

Listening Activity, idea from Pinterest


Elements of Music posters

Sunday, July 22, 2012


Thank you for visiting the SoLaMi blog for music education!  The purpose of this blog is three-fold:

1. to provide a means of communication among the teacher, parents/guardians, and students

2. to provide students with out-of-the-classroom music learning resources

3. to serve as a communication and resource tool for educators

My overall goal with this blog is to provide a meaningful source of communication.  Parker J. Palmer wrote the following in his book The Courage to Teach:

"The growth of any craft depends on shared practice and honest dialogue among people who do it." (p. 144)

Thank you for taking part in the sharing!