First Visit

I am so excited to start my second year of Arts Bridge teaching! This year I am working at Canyon Crest Elementary, with Mrs. Nelson’s first grade class. Mrs. Nelson is lucky to have a very small class, only 15 students in total, but a lot of space for them to work and learn in. Here is a brief tour of her classroom:

Floor rug and SmartBoard at the front of the room. Most instruction happens here
Circle Time rug at the back of the classroom
Desks for written work
Backpack storage nook

I love the way this classroom is structured so that the primary focus is not at the desks, but on the floor. Young children need lots of physical engagement throughout their school day, it is an important part of how they learn. I have often heard teachers say “Play is the work of children,” and that philosophy is reflected in the layout of this classroom!


This year, I am approaching my Arts Bridge project with an additional purpose in mind: Research. Throughout my teaching this year, I will be studying the Four Classroom Structures presented by educator Lois Hetland and implementing them into my teaching. Through field notes, video, and meetings with other educators, I will be researching the effectiveness of Hetland’s Four Structures in promoting deeper learning among students. For more information about Hetland’s work, click here. For more about my research, click here.

First Visit

To view my lesson plan for the first visit, click here.

At the beginning of my first Arts Bridge project, I eased into the classroom environment much more slowly. I took my time observing the classroom before doing any teaching myself. I didn’t know as much about classroom management or expectations at that time. Now, with a year of experience behind me, I felt more comfortable stepping into the role of teacher, not just observer, right away.

Bumpity Bumpity Yellow Bus

I always like to begin with a name learning song whenever I step into a new elementary classroom. I learned this one recently and it worked very well. The teacher is a bus driver, singing “Bumpity bumpity yellow bus, will you say your name for us?” as she visits each student. This gave me the chance to learn not only their names, but the correct pronunciation of each name as well. After each student gives their name, I asked if they would like to ride on my yellow bus. I supplied two possible responses: “You can say ‘yes, please’ or ‘no, thank you’.” This gives students the chance to practice a polite response but still gives them the option to decline if they don’t feel comfortable participating at the time. Students who feel like they have the ability to make choices, I have learned, are more accepting of the teacher’s authority and more responsive in general. Some students chose to “ride the bus,” or follow along behind me in a chain as we moved from student to student; a few opted to remain seated on the rug. Everyone had a great time, and I got a chance to learn names.

Music Mapping and Observation

A Music Map I designed for “Coppelia Waltz” by Leo Delibes

This first activity is one I recycled from prior teaching experiences: Music Mapping and the skill of observation. To read more about music mapping and how to teach this lesson, click here. In this lesson, I used the same audio file that I have used previously, Coppelia Waltz by Leo Delibes.

I introduced the concept of observation- looking and listening to notice things about what is going on or what’s around you. I asked them what they noticed. “Loop de loops” “A star” “Squiggles”- They were pretty on task with that. “What do you hear?” I asked.

“Nothing,” they responded. 

Then I played the music, traced the map, and had them join me on the A’ section. The students traced the shaped on the map in the air with their fingers. This allowed them to access all three major learning modalities- aural, visual, and kinesthetic- at once, helping them focus on the task. It also gave me as a teacher an easy tool for visual formative assessment.

“What did you notice?”

“There were fast parts,” “There were slow parts,” “There were high parts,” “There were low parts.” I was impressed by the number and variety of accurate responses.

“What do you notice about how the music and map fit together?” They got the prompt; it was clear they understood that the lines went the way the music sounded. “Did I just draw some random squiggly lines up here?” I asked.

“No!” everyone responded. 

We listened to the Map again, after I gave some new suggestions “Look and listen for repetitions, things that are the same.” Always give something to focus on/look for. 

Several of the got it exactly. “The stuff on that first line repeats three times” one girl said. She actually counted it! I asked the students for other parts that repeat and they successfully identified several. What happens when we get to the straight horizontal lines at the end? “We go back to the beginning!” They got it. We talked about how observation takes practice- the first time looking, they noticed a few things, when they traced the map, they noticed more, when they traced it again they noticed more. 

This was just a brief introduction to a skill- observation- that could, honestly, be the subject of an entire unit by itself. For my purposes, though, I think this was sufficient. Observation is a skill I will ask the students to use a lot during this semester as we integrate science and music to learn all about sound and vibration. More on that in the next lesson!

Sarah Earl

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