“Music in the soul can be heard by the universe.” Lao Tzu (Course 3 Final Project)


The purpose of this project is to create an infographic that was useful and friendly for my elementary students. The infographic illustrates notable composers, their work – through icons – and when they lived in a historical timeline.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of all composers in the history of time. These composers are the “MVCs” (Most Valuable Composers) in my lessons. Every year I sprinkle new ones to keep it interesting. Shout out to our very own local composer Dana Al Fardan for making the cut! I think my students (and parents) will appreciate the addition of a Qatari composer among the primarily western composers on this list.

Limitations of the Project

Upon compiling the list of composers and their compositions for this project, it is obvious that it is primarily a timeline for western music. I have done some research on Arab music, but unfortunately they are not as well documented because of their oral music tradition. I hope to propose an idea to the powers that be – Qatar Music Academy, the Qatar National Library, the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra, or someone in the QF arts and culture sector – and encourage them to document children’s songs and/or celebration songs for preservation. I think that it would be a challenging but rewarding project that, as a result, can be enjoyed for generations to come.

Furthermore, there is a lack of female representation on this list. That’s a whole different blog if you ask me. To be continued. . .

Music in time. . .

The infographic shows a musical timeline from the medieval period to 20th century music. The icons (thanks, Noun Project!) serve as a reminder of the compositions. For example, the hand representing Guido de Arezzo symbolizes his development of a system to learn music by ear. Today, we call that solfège (think “Do-re-mi” from The Sound of Music).  Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, Holst’s The Planets, or even John Williams’ Jurassic Park will not be forgotten thanks to the icons. The font choice for the composer names was chosen for readability – especially for kids! The description for each time period is a bit wordy, but that’s saved for the older kids and adults who might stop by and read our display.

What do you think? Hope you have a great week!


“Remember the times…”

Image via Pexels

It was a typical music lesson. The students and I were discussing our composer of the month. We routinely examined who they were, where they were from and what piece of music they composed. And one day my student asked whether or not the composer was still alive. Good question. Based on the photo, some were able to make inferences; but most of the students were not. To their defense, the photo had a nice filter so he could have been alive. Even though I explained that Piazolla was born in 1921, they couldn’t really fathom the concept of time.

To further support my point, I had a student approach me and said, “Miss, did you know that my dad was born in one thousand and something AND HE’S STILL ALIVE?!” I gave her a bit of a sideways glance and thought to myself, “Umm, I, too, was born in one thousand and something, and I’m still alive!” See? No concept of time.

These were invented in the year one thousand and something…

And so I went online to find a resource, SOMETHING, to display prominent composers and where they were located in a music history timeline. Hours, days and weeks had gone by and I still couldn’t find one that suited my purpose. So what am I to do when I’m stuck in a rut? Listen to music. 

I frequently attend concerts or small ensemble performances by the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra (QPO). Live music is hard to come by in the desert, so I have to take what I can get. And lo and behold, the program notes had EXACTLY what I was looking for. Not only did they present a timeline of composers, but they listed the top 25 composers by the number of performances, in addition to, the top 25 pieces by frequency of performances by major american orchestras. They even had a section that showed where the QPO musicians were from by displaying a world map and little coloured dots around the world. And the best part of this new found gem? Everything was translated in Arabic.

Left side of the massive two page program notes. I couldn’t get it all in one frame. In addition, the high resolution photo that I created was too big to upload. Any ideas on how to fix that?

I was thinking that this infographic could be serve as a foundation of a history of music timeline to be displayed on a bulletin board outside of my classroom. I would use the top portion that indicate the years and the composer names, and underneath, I would add their compositions and perhaps how we used their work for our classroom use. Tchaikovsky’s Trepak from the Nutcracker could include a photo of my KG student’s listening log, or Vivaldi’s Spring can include a photo of my Grade 1s and their movement with scarves and ribbons. What’s more, this new display would be accessible for both English and Arabic speakers. During SLCs – student led conferences – the students can show and explain to their parents who they are listening to and the activities associated with each composer. 

Up close and personal

Thank you, infographic gods, for your help!

Happy March!


I admit it. I was a bit skeptical at first when reading about digital storytelling and how it can be done in a music context. However, like (or unlike) Archimedes in the bath, I might have finally arrived at my eureka moment because digital storytelling could be summative assessment option to an existing unit of inquiry. After all, we’re all about student agency, right?

Image via Pixabay (Erika Wittlieb)

My previous blog discusses visual literacy and imagination. The provocation for this unit of inquiry utilises the power of images to stimulate ideas, feelings and sounds; however, what if it was the other way around? I could begin with a musical excerpt and students will create a narrative based on what they hear. One of my go-to listening samples is The Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saëns. The possibilities are endless with this particular set of tunes! I’ve even used this resource with my kindergarten students. The students draw what they think is happening in the music.  I ask, “What do you see in your mind when you hear this music?” or “How does this music make you feel?” SURELY if the kinders can come up with a piece of visual artwork upon hearing a piece of music, the older students can not only create a visual but also write a short story.

KG sample student work

Because there are heaps of musical variety in The Carnival of the Animals collection, students are bound to find one they can connect with to create a digital story. In music, we can discuss an assortment of musical elements such as form or mood. Obviously, a link to reading and language arts is evident with their story writing skills or even storyboarding skills. Visual arts also take a role in this assessment if the students were to create a piece of artwork. And of course, the creation of these digital stories would include the technology perspective by discussing photo rights/fair useiMovie skills and so forth.

Now. I challenge you to take 60 seconds from your busy schedule to listen to ONE of the musical excerpts below. I purposefully renamed the tracks so you will not have an image in mind prior to hearing the music sample. If you’re keen to know what they’re called, scroll to the bottom of the blog. Do YOU think you can create a short story based on The Carnival of the Animals? How else can I improve this new summative assessment option? 

Looking forward to your thoughts!

The Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saëns


Sample 1: Aquarium

Sample 2: Characters with Long Ears

Sample 3: The Swan



Image via Pexels (Kevin Ku)

I may be taking a different approach to week three’s blog, but I’ll have a go. I present everyday. You read that right. Every. Day. My Keynote presentations are part of my PYP learning environment. 

As the students enter the classroom, Mr. Mac, a behavior strategy under the CHAMPS program is displayed on the SMART board to remind students of how we enter the music classroom. The same slide will then be displayed at the end when they exit. We use this routine weekly as I only see my students once a week; it helps them remember the expectations. We go through the following sequence where “Give Me Five!” is shown on the screen. I raise my hand, the students follow, and we, through TPR, go through the meaning of “Give Me Five”. At this point, since I know have the students’ full attention, we go through the lessons for the day. We usually begin with a movement sequence where the slide contains short lyrics and an image of a marching band. For those students who are emerging readers, the text is displayed and they can participate in the chant while incorporating our movement to the steady beat. I know, I know.  I have written everything we say on the screen. I’m pretty sure that is faux pas number one according to Don McMillan’s Life After Death by Powerpoint

But for good reason. The children are now connecting the lyrics that they have learned by rote and assigning letters and words. The lyrics were not provided when I first taught it. It was only a simple image with movements associated with it. But now with the text displayed, they are practicing their English reading skills in the music setting. They LOVE pointing out the words while saying the chant. You can’t fault me for that. In fact, I should get bonus points.

Our class resumes with the introduction of the composer of the month. The slide contains a world map with the composer’s home country highlighted, an image of the composer, title of the piece and (sneakily) embed an audio clip on the slide. Depending on the composer, the activity could be a simple “sit in a circle and listen to the music” (with a focus on musical elements such as dynamics or tempo) or a movement activity with props (i.e. scarves, ribbons, bouncy balls, etc.) I liked Jeff’s idea of adding animation to presentations when appropriate. I speak of animation within the same slide and not transition between slides. Here’s why: when the students see the “typical” COTM slide, they are already programmed with the format of the slide. The world map is shown with a star to locate Qatar. The composer’s home country is highlighted, and I go through this silly, but effective, script that if we were to fly FIFTEEN hours by plane from Qatar, we can visit (insert composer’s name)’s home in (insert composer’s birth country).

Updated slide with animation

An animated arrow, for example, from Qatar to a specific country would add an element of fun – but with a purpose. They are making connections about where they are compared to the rest of the world. This simple learning engagement can trigger their curiosity, and as a result, they inquire about other composers and where they come from. When I initially designed this slide, I thought it would just be a display or a decoration to support the music behind it. Little did I know it would be an integral part of my daily lesson.

Keynote vs. Google Slides 

I’ve been creating these “presentations” for a few years now and I’ve come to realise that there should be a program where Keynote and Google Slides become one. I’m not clever enough to create this, but if anyone out there is, you heard it here first! I love that I can edit Slides from any computer; but Keynote has a more beautiful template to work with. For my context, videos and music embedded onto the slides are essential. Google. Are you listening? I shouldn’t have to put nuclear launch codes JUST to add music to my slides. And I’m not even adding music. I have to convert my MP3s to a YouTube video AND THEN add it to my slide. It’s very distracting. Even though I adjust the size of the YouTube video, it doesn’t look clean. Keynote makes it easy to just drag and drop music onto a slide. And what’s more: it’s invisible in presentation mode. Oooooh! Aaaaah! I can even edit where to start and stop if I only want a short excerpt. As an aside, did you know that there are wireless presentation remotes that do NOT work with Google Slides? Oh yes. I would know. I’ve owned three different versions (this one does NOT work). Because we transition from movement, to listening, to writing, to singing, etc., I don’t have time to waste and walk to the computer and change slides. With the presentation remote in hand, or with a special helper, I have a tightly paced music lesson.

For now, I’ll stick with Keynote for it’s ease and visually appealing slides. And I’ll definitely incorporate some of the design principles that I’ve learned this week for my future presentations. But if anyone wants to create “Key-slides” or “Google-note”, am happy to go 50/50 with you!

Oh happy day!

By the way, if you’re using Keynote and need to convert it to Google Slides, this video is handy. Enjoy!


Imagination extends the ability to think, create, and express ourselves

Image via Pixabay

This is the central idea of my grade two students’ unit of inquiry. As part of their summative assessment, they are to write or rewrite a short story in English class. They will use their imagination by writing an original short story, adding another character to an existing story and so on. In visual arts, they will create sock puppets, and again, using their imagination, they will a character (aka sock puppet), and perform a skit in Arabic. In music, they will perform their short stories (written in English) accompanied by student created soundscapes or musical motifs. 

I’ve always enjoyed this unit because it gives me an opportunity to share the unique instruments in our music room. As part of my provocation, I display an image on the smartboard – it can be any image – and their task is to use their imagination to write a quick narrative of what is taking place in the picture. The  students then decide what instrument, sounds or sound effects to use to support that narrative.

Image via Pixabay

The ocean image is my go-to only because my hope is for the students to choose the ocean drum to provide the sound effect. It seems too easy. Yes, that’s the point. We move on to a number of images, and each one will have a different feel, sound, mood, theme, etc. A woodpecker sitting on a branch can be represented by a woodblock, or an image of a skeleton can be enhanced by a group of claves played simultaneously.

What’s interesting for me is when the students choose an instrument that won’t “naturally” go with a specific image. It gives me insight to how the students perceive a particular image and their musical choices. Furthermore, the best part of this learning experience is that there is no wrong answer. They all seem to have a different perspective, and that’s what makes this unit so unique.

Image via Pixabay

A good image supports my content because it triggers some sort of reaction, an emotion or better yet, a sound. It enhances my lessons in that for the lower primary students, they do not know how to read traditional music notation (yet), but images make an excellent stepping stone. Steady beat is a concept that I can try to explain ad nauseam but simply displaying a beating heart or even a grandfather clock, in addition to, listening to a steady beat, and the concept understood with relative ease. They may not be able to verbalise the concept, but demonstrating with their bodies through movement is a clear indicator.  What’s more, tracing our fingers on a roller coaster image helps introduce the exploration of vocal sounds – high and low. There are countless uses for images in a musical context. Although it can be time consuming, curating images to teach musical conceptual understandings has proven to be successful.

Any other ideas of using images in a music setting?

Happy weekend!

“The difference between style and fashion is quality.” (Giorgio Armani)

During my first year as an elementary music teacher, I scoured the internet for the best resources. I was not prescribed a set curriculum to follow, and so I was left to my own devices (I preferred that, really). And then I came across a website called Mama Lisa’s World. Indeed I entered her world, and my (teaching) life changed! She has organised a collection of songs, rhymes, games and traditions from around the world. Celebrating International Day at school was a breeze because of this website. My lessons on world music and other cultures were such a pleasure to teach. Also, themed concerts and/or presentations were a big hit thanks to this resource (insert praise emoji hands here)! Thanks, Mama Lisa! 

Mama Lisa’s World Homepage

After reading the articles Understanding Visual Hierarchy in Web Design, and Design Better with CRAP, I realized that “Mama Lisa” could learn a trick or two to update and freshen up her website. For instance, I would redesign the homepage where the header would have a simpler font with a neutral color (I have an obsession with shades of grey. No, NOT the book). The light blueish-green background with maroon letters isn’t quite my style. I would fill the homepage an interactive world map. When you hover above a continent, it would glow (or something). Upon clicking on a continent, it would zoom in – Prezi-style – and from there, you can choose the country which then directs you to that country’s page. The page would include historical information, up-to-date photos and a selection links to songs, rhymes, games and traditions. Of course there would be some sort of icon, perhaps a globe or a music note, to take you back to the homepage when desired. I must say the ads littering the current site can be a bit distracting. Is that something she can control as the owner of a website? Hmm, perhaps a question worth pursuing later if I decide to create my own. . .

Rough draft of redesigning the website

After hours of “redesigning her website”, I got to thinking: who am I to criticize her website? Maybe criticize is a strong word. That’s probably just her style! She happens to LIKE light blueish-green and maroon..?! As a new elementary music teacher, the idea NEVER crossed my mind because I was visiting the site to learn – to learn about new songs, games, traditions, dances, etc. I have composed a number of successful student productions and performances based on the content of her website. Now, I ask you: what’s more important? Content or aesthetic?

Okay, okay. One can argue that it CAN be both. I suppose in an ideal world it should be. But for now, Mama Lisa, you do you (insert praise emoji hands here)! Thanks for everything! 

Draft homepage
Draft individual country pages

P.S. Any thoughts or comments about my draft website? Have a great weekend!


… – – – … (Course 2 Final Project)

Image via Pixabay

Course 2 has come and gone in a flash! There were great discussions of copyright and plagiarism; I learned so much and gained resources for images via Pixabay or Pexels. We spoke of online privacy and yet leaving positive digital footprints. Furthermore, we reflected on empowering connections among our students. The bottom line? Be a good person – on AND offline. And then all of a sudden, there was the final project. SOS! Where did THAT come from?! Help! I sent my very own SOS via Twitter. But first, I had to YouTube HOW to use Twitter (facepalm). Huge thanks to Carolin (@carolin_escobar) and Nick (@NicholasKGarvin) for coming to the rescue!

Final Project: Option 3-Responsible Use Agreement (RUA)/Responsible Use Policy (RUP)

Our group collaborated on modifying and updating an RUA from Nick’s school, UWC Thailand. The school currently does not have a Tech Director and any documents pertaining to technology was outdated. We opted to enhance the existing RUA by creating something more accessible for the students. Considering Nick and I both teach lower elementary students, I thought that it would be appropriate and valuable.  As a result, the language written in the student contracts were more age appropriate, and in addition, we created a resource for teachers to use to introduce and discuss proper use of equipment and fundamental aspects of digital citizenship – I present to you our Digital Citizenship Ebook for K-2.

The Ebook was created using Google Slides as the main platform. We collaborated on each slide by making comments, adding photos, videos, and additional resources. The Ebook can be easily customised by any teacher at any school, and it can also be shared with parents. The language, photos and videos were appropriate for K-2 students (including ELL students).

The Ebook has a corresponding Google Doc called the Digital Citizenship and and Responsible Use in the Primary School (K-5). The document restates the student behavior, proper use and fundamental aspects of digital citizenship under the headings of Be Safe, Be Respectful and Be Responsible – the school-wide essential agreements that students are already familiar with.


Google Hangouts (credit to Carolin Escobar)

The Course 2 Final Project was enlightening to say the least. We had to overcome challenges such as, how can we find a common meeting time to conduct a Google Hangout if we are in four different time zones?! Thanks to technology we were able to make this work. Comments on our Google Doc and Slides made it relatively easy for us to maintain contact in order to ask questions and receive feedback. Messages via Twitter also kept me on my toes. It helped me REMEMBER to check Twitter once in awhile. I am so thankful for my team for their knowledge, insight and patience during this project. 

Shukraan jazilaan! 


“…a ripple of change.”

Image via skitterphoto.com

Thanks to FaceTime or video calling via Facebook, I am more connected to family and friends – especially as I am living abroad. I have a friend/mentor from home with whom I like to schedule “Facetime dates” to talk about recent news or drama. Our conversations can be as exciting as, “Guess what happened to so-and-so?!” or “What did you have for dinner last night?” Nevertheless, I am thankful for technology for keeping us connected.

Last week our topic of conversation was of global news. Bombings in Syria, children suffering from starvation in Yemen, the recent California wildfires and so much more. It was too much! As usual I complained of this type of news, and my friend simply replies, “It’s not news. It’s always been there. Now it’s more evident due to the Internet.” Ugh. Thanks a lot, Internet.

As I scroll through my Facebook feed, I occasionally pause at the pages or images entitled “In case you missed it.” Generally, they post positive news. There ARE good people in the world doing good deeds. There are little games, videos or challenges to fill your Facebook with something positive. The post could be as simple as sharing a video compilation of tumbling pandas (It’s great! I promise!)

And then I wondered: How can I take this back to my classroom? How do I introduce the notion of spreading positive vibes or good deeds with my students?

Photo Credit: Danieal Longanetti

Well, to start, I utilised a strategy that my former colleague, Danieal Longanetti (@teach2learn13),  shared during her Seesaw presentation at Mini-Nesa in Doha, Qatar during the spring of 2017. It was a straightforward anchor chart that featured feedback and open-minded comments. Duh! It was so simple, yet an effective way to teach students how to write appropriate feedback and open-minded comments. She introduced this idea to her students while they were working on their Seesaw portfolios and sharing it with other students from different schools. When I started this concept in the comfort of our classroom, I realized just how much one, small, positive comment can affect my young learner’s self-esteem and passion for learning. My students were all afraid and/or embarrassed to share their songs with each other in the class, but then they realized that their peers felt the same way! They all received some sort of positive comment and gave each other suggestions to improve their work. And they wanted to! The students were inspired to improve their songs and to share it again with the group.  The idea became one, small ripple of change that made the biggest impact.

It might start within the music room walls, but soon I hope to “spread the good” in our school and hopefully beyond.  

“It takes but one person, one moment, one conviction to start a ripple of change.” – Donna Brazile

Counting down ‘til winter break! We can do this, Online9!

People first. Musicians second.

Image via Pixabay

In my school, music classes, and other specialist classes, are delivered once a week to every class in every grade at the primary level. In the course of one academic year, I will see the students roughly thirty-six times. THIRTY. SIX. TIMES. Due to my obsessive and perfectionist nature, I put a great deal of pressure on myself to design units that are engaging, concept-based, and infused with musical and technical skills. If one lesson is “off”, there goes one of my precious thirty-six lessons to teach my unit. No big deal. . . 

And with that, when students come to music class with their “drama”, already I am foreseeing my lesson going down the drain. I am annoyed.  I say to myself, “Child. Don’t you know that today we are going to learn about Tchaikovsky and his contribution to our musical world?! I don’t have time for your ‘drama’!”

Wait a minute, self. Stop. Reflect. Act.

Danah Boyd’s article, “Bullying” Has Little Resonance with Teenagers, discusses her search for “…understanding the underlying dynamics” of bullying and how to “find intervention mechanisms that work.” Although her research subjects were mainly teenagers, I wondered whether or not my school’s research-based programs and interventions at the primary level provides the ideal preventative measures to nurture and support students before they go forth to middle and high school.  Hmm. . .   


(Learning About Bullying – Pt 1, The Tough Kid Bully Blocker Shorts)

For instance, what I love about the PYP framework (although my school is only in its second year of implementation) is the concept of the IB Learner Profiles. The Learner Profiles are a set of attributes that prepare students to become “active, compassionate, and lifelong learners”. We aim to incorporate one or two profiles as we design our units of study. When the students come with their “drama”, we stop, reflect and refer back to the profiles.

  • Are we being THINKERS? Are we thinking critically and creatively to recognize and approach this problem and find a solution?
  • Are we being COMMUNICATORS? Did we take turns talking about the problem and discussed how it makes us feel?
  • Are we being PRINCIPLED? Are we acting with integrity and and honesty? Are we taking responsibility for our actions?
  • Are we being OPEN-MINDED? Did you consider the other person’s perspective?
  • Are we being CARING? Did you show empathy, compassion and respect towards the needs and feelings of others?
Kelso Wheel

Kelso’s Choice is a conflict management skills program that was implemented in my school several years ago. Unique lessons and activities are taught so that students learn strategies for solving small problems. Students are instructed how to identify the difference between small and big problems – big problems in that adult intervention is necessary. Kelso’s Wheel is displayed in a corner of my room to give students a safe space to solve their small conflict.

Second Step is a social and emotional learning program that teaches skills for students to regulate their emotions and behaviors so that they are ready to learn. As a result students are better equipped to manage challenging situations or conflicts.

My hope is that the combination of the IB Learner Profiles, Kelso’s Choice and Second Step will result in the decrease of bullying in the primary and secondary schools. I DO try to make an effort to remember that I teach people first and musicians second. It will be a win in my book if my students grow up to be the “active and compassionate lifelong learners.” It will be a bonus win if they can articulately discuss Debussy’s non-traditional musical compositions in comparison to the likes of Mozart or Beethoven.

Have a great week!

“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”

This quote from the late and great Muhammed Ali has always been a personal favorite. I refer to it from time to time to reflect on my choices, my actions, my relationships or any other “life happenings.”

When I read the article Digitally Speaking / Positive Digital Footprints by William M. Ferriter, it made a profound impact – specifically when Ferriter expresses his fears for when his children grow older, they will not “. . . be Googled well.” Interesting concept, huh? And with that, I googled myself. The top hits were articles from local newspapers highlighting performances (shout out to my drum corps days with  Spirit of Atlanta in this DCI article), teacher interviews via QF Telegraph or band concerts that I’ve directed when I taught middle school band. And then there were the White Pages to get basic information, but nothing else too exciting. There was NO mention of me contributing to the world. Oh no. Muhammed, I have failed you. But perhaps I still have time . . .

Though as an educator, we already ARE giving back to the world. We are educating the world’s future. Isn’t that what they say? Surely that counts for something! In our digitally connected world, I feel that our giving back should be shared. Not for accolades per se, but because our contribution could benefit someone from a different part of the globe. Sharing could spark a domino effect of raising awareness or doing good deeds. THAT is what I want my digital footprint to become.

I had a big think about how I am supposed to musically give back to the world. I could compose a piece of music. Although with my rusty music theory knowledge, I doubt I will become the next Beethoven or John Williams. But, I suppose I could start small. I can begin with my PLNs. I can be even more active and contribute to the discussion boards. I DO have some good tricks and ideas that someone can benefit from. I can publish journal articles and share best teaching practices to new and upcoming music educators. I can create a music blog to recommend great resources and to share my words of wisdom. . . well, more like lessons learned during my teaching journey. . . now there’s an idea.

So before I heed Ferriter’s advice of teaching my students about positive digital footprints, I first need to find the courage to teach myself.

He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life. 

Another quote from Muhammed Ali. He’s one smart (and tough) cookie.

Happy weekend!