Hi, Alicia! Welcome to the group!
I'm REB, and I teach 4th-6th grade classroom music as well as Chorus, Drum Circle and Orff Ensemble at a public school in southeast Louisiana.
The student population at my school last year was a little over 1,000 students when the doors opened last August. I had almost 600 of those that I saw at least twice a week, I say at least because some of the students also came once a week for Drum Circle and Orff Ensemble as well. (There are two of us teaching music full-time, due to the overwhelming load it would be for one person, and we co-teach the Drum Circle, Choruses, and Orff Ensemble.)
I have taught music a total of 9 1/2 years. I taught 4 1/2 years in a rural Mississippi area with a HUGE middle school 6th-8th grade. (They had 1,200 students grades 6-8...but that WAS the ONLY middle school within a 25 mile (the entire county's radius). I taught show choir, classroom music, and Concert choir then. (I had no prior show choir experience, but an excellent assistant who saved my rear more than once on choreography, and was the sweetest lady!!! ) My DH got a new job, and we had to move away from that area of Mississippi, so he could take the new job. (I thought about commuting, but 88 miles one way would be a little much...)
So, sadly, I left.
I had to find a new teaching position in our new area, and looked for many weeks! Unfortunately, my own state was having a state-wide hiring freeze as the education budget had not been figured out yet, and I went searching for work in the next neighboring state, Louisiana. I was so happy when I learned that the district I applied to considered vocal music a critical shortage area, and even happier when I got 10 interviews, and two job offers from the job fair for them.
I taught 6-8 grade music and Chorus at one school half a day everyday, and commuted about 5 blocks over to the feeder school, a K-5 elementary for classroom music in the afternoons everyday.
I did that for one year, and asked for a transfer, due to some "strains" the school was under.
The following year, I taught K-3 music in a different school, commuting a lot farther I might add(about 70 miles round trip everyday from home in Mississippi), and 4-6 music and Chorus in it's school in the same location (about one street over from the K-3 school). I LOVED this school!!!
And, then Hurricane Katrina hit.
The school I had been at the previous year, was devastated by 6-8 feet of sludge and water. The school I was working at was very lucky to have gotten minimal damage, and was back up and running a month later. I realized after this that commuting this distance didn't make sense for my family, as my husband had lost his job as a result of his job's produce warehouse being in East New Orleans, and flooded by a little over 8 feet of water. He went from account executive to unemployed. Two weeks later, he was able to apply, and get a grant job through the National Emergency Grant, and was able to keep that job for over a year! The contract finally ran out, and he job hopped for a few years,(contract would run out with his job, and he'd become unemployed again a couple more times, worked for a pizza place, delivering pizzas for a little while, etc.. until he landed a state job a year and a half ago. (He has a degree in Biology by the way.)
I asked for a transfer, at the end of '06, due to the far commute, my husband's being unemployed, and the cost it was costing for me to drive like that with gas in my area costing almost $4 a gallon the many months after Katrina, after he did land a job.
I was offered a position teaching at a middle school 4-6 grades all day, one place, and was ecstatic! But, that meant leaving behind children that I had gotten attached to, which was tough.
And, then I learned that the commute was a lot closer as well, so after explaining this to my principal, he understood. I think he was disappointed that I was leaving, until I explained to him WHY I was leaving.
Lucky me, I still get to see some of the children from that area at our district's choral festivals each spring, and many of them still remember me, although I have lost a little over 170 pounds since they remember me teaching them.
Room set up....o.k....now that you're familiar a little more with my background, guess I should get to the real questions...
I like to go with a theme.
When I taught K-3 I did smiley faces...
When I taught 4-6 one year I did a Rock and Roll theme - juke box bulletin board set, (it comes with CDs, I like the laminate them, maybe for a BRAVO student wall...)
(If you're not sure what BRAVO is....check out musick8.com - go to their idea bank...they have over 1,500 ideas posted there...type in BRAVO and you'll see about the BRAVO behavior plan...)
(I used this...modifed somewhat for my classes.)
For the last 3 years, I have done a movie/Hollywood theme in my classroom.
I've added stuff each year...new decorations...lots of Stars. Bravo wall is called "Walk of Fame", and I bought a bunch of those ticket rolls up, and the students put their names on the tickets, and at the end of the 9 weeks, I draw one name from each homeroom class for a goodie bag, and certificate.
I also have a wall for Chorus that has cameras (it's a pre-made bulletin board set, that I've had for a couple years, and just found in my file cabinet this past April
), it's called "Picture Perfect", and comes with film strips that I also laminated, and of course cameras with sayings on them like "Awesome job" Way to Go, etc...
I have a "Composer Spotlight" and that is where I post a picture (or you could have the students bring in pictures for treats(depending on what your school's rules are about treats) of the composer, and some information about the composer that you'd feature throughout music class that month.
I also do centers....
I spend one week, at the end of each 9 weeks with each classroom music class, doing centers.
The centers that I've used in the past have been...
Boomwhackers center - (I typed up/wrote on staff paper, and laminated) some songs without the words and posted them up, and the students had to figure out what the "mystery tunes" were, and write their answers down, to turn in at the end of class.
Listening centers - usually I stock this with classical music, or inspirational music, or something from a different time period.
There are five folders that I keep at the center and some laminated sheets, that ask them questions about their listening. (I got my questions from SQUILT questions that I use for listening...if you're not sure what SQUILT is, go to musick8 idea bank, type in SQUILT, and you'll find the questions...(I also have each of these posted in my classroom on brightly colored paper, as well as extra copies that I have laminated for students to hold and see, when we are listening to the composer of the month's music, so I can ask questions about the music.)
Drumming center - I type up rhythms (and laminate them), or use pre-made rhythm cards for this activity. I instruct the students to create a 8 measure song and drum it for each other, and then try to drum each other's songs in one long, song, together! For their final challenge, they drum it for me!
Scavenger Hunt - I use the textbook for this. We use "Spotlight on Music". Some examples of things I ask in the printed scavenger hunt are: definition of tempo, (they have to list page number they found it on for each thing), a picture of a saxophone, Beethoven, "The Entertainer", conga drum, song in Japanese, drumming song, etc.
Games Center - I made a few poster sized games and bought some music card games as well that I allow the students to group up and play. (I got my ideas for the poster sized games from "Galaxy of Music Games" - this book was published back in 1976, but I did find it on Amazon.com two summers ago...it has lots of game ideas in it, and has been a valuable resource for my classroom since I started using it. (I think I paid about $12 for it.)
Some other books that have fun game ideas are: 101 Music Games for the Music Classroom, and 101 More Music Games for the Music classroom. (I think I bought these from Music in Motion if I remember right.)
I'm not sure how much writing your school requires, but if so, Bell ringers work great, if you want to require them to keep a journal as part of their weekly music grade. I found a book that is made by MacDonald publishing, and it's a Music Journal Ideas book - it's small, but don't let the small size fool ya...it has over 200 great writing prompts on music.
(They also make them for other subjects as well.) I had bought one of these, and used it faithfully, every day with my 6-8 grade students, and lost it when I moved, and thought about that again last year, so I ordered another one online. )
Some other centers I have used are: Mystery Metallophones Center - (same idea as the boomwhackers, just using metallophones), composers corner - where the students are allowed to use various instruments to create (and notate) their composition; Reading center - with camping chairs (that are red, to fit in with the Hollywood theme
), I have some composer books in my room, and some on popular musicians as well that were purchased thanks to a PTA grant that my former partner teacher won a couple years ago.
This past year, with my music classes, I embarked on doing "Music Olympics" - you can also see a sketch of what I used to do this if you look on musick8.com - I used it with all grades, and keeping track of points was a little nightmarish, but the kids LOVED it! And, I allowed them to choose their own groups of students and countries, but told them the first day, that if they got into any agruments, weren't friends, etc, once groups were set...they were set for the year for Music Olympics.
I hope this helps!
I'd be happy to share some other ideas, if you need more info, or help!