Previous month:
March 2007
Next month:
May 2007

April 2007

Sight Reading "White" Boards

Don't have enough money to buy the set of 17 white boards from Neinhuis? Make 'em. It's kind of a time consuming process, and you must be "in the present moment" with your sharpie or other permanent marker, but the results are classy. I was going to paint this book board stuff white with some spray paint before drawing on the notes, but I thought it looked unprofessional. This way, the boards match the rest of my music materials, which are mostly golden in tone. You will need to do some measuring to make sure that all the notes will fit on your staff. Pick a large coin that will serve as your note template. I used a 5 peso coin which is about the size of a quarter. For each note, I placed the coin on the board and traced around it with the sharpie, then filled it it.

You will also need a yard/meter stick to make clean, spiffy lines.

Each board is numbered in order of difficulty. If you need to know what note patterns the 17 boards have, order Susan Stephenson's (AMI) music curriculum from Michael Olaf. It's $5 and well worth it.

Also, thanks to Jo from Japan for sending in some Japanese music files! She also sent in this photo of a woman playing the shamisen - the instrument used on two of the three files she sent. The other file is a great Japanese remake of John Denver's Country Roads. It would be great to have the children listen to both versions! The three new files are available for you to download if you click on the small button in the sidebar.

My husband comes home tomorrow! It's been a long week without him. I'll be driving three hours to the "big city" of Chihuahua to pick him up at the airport. Oh, and did I mention that I will be driving a thoroughly Mexican-ized car? The muffler fell off of our little Toyota Rav4 last week. Now I will totally blend in on the highway! No license plates (immigration didn't give us any and Washington, D.C. made us send our plates back to them) and a healthy engine hum. Too cool. Let's just hope nothing else falls off during the drive! Come Wednesday I'll be uploading Composer Definition Stages and Who Am I? stories for the composers and the instruments. Have a happy Tuesday.



Singing in the Classroom

72 song picture cards ... a late evening listening to some good music and I can check off another item from my music curriculum list. This is an idea a picked up from Susan Stephenson, the owner of Michael Olaf. I ordered the 3-6 music curriculum and have found it to be a helpful resource. In the section about the Song Picture Cards, Susan says:

Song Picture Cards, like Poetry Picture Cards, make it easy for a young, non-reading child to ask for a certain song. Keep these in a box on the music shelves. A child can get out a card whenever she wants and sing it to herself, or ask another child or the teacher to sing it with her.

I would show the children the new song picture card when I introduce the song, either with the whole group at the end of the day, or to an individual child or small group. The new song card is then placed in the box on the shelf.

I made my cards with cardboard, tracing around a CD case before cutting it out with my paper cutter. (Bless your heart if you do all the cutting with scissors. You have more patience and hand strength than I do.) Once all 72 pieces of cardboard are cut, either draw or search Google images for relevant pictures for each song. For example, I found a painting of a partridge in a pear tree for The Twelve Days of Christmas.

Then, using your prettiest handwriting, write out the title to each song. Cut and paste title and picture to the cardboard, and laminate using contact paper. Use the same method as you would for making underlays.
Rotate the song picture cards according to holidays, time of the year, etc. I would have 10-20 displayed at any given time. 72 options would be overwhelming!

At a loss for songs? Rise Up Singing to the rescue! This is such a great resource, especially if you play the guitar in the classroom like I do. Along with lyrics to over 1200 songs, you get the simple guitar chords as well! You can order it from Michael Olaf.

And some photos of other things I've made in the past few days:

Silk dupion-lined storage pouch for the Composers material.

A silk obi-style pouch for the music note labels. This material should be placed near the bells.

Tiny orchestra fabric pouch that contains five labels: the percussion family, the brass family, the woodwind family, the string family, and the special instruments. Each of these has a different colored dot in one corner. The child can mix up all of the instruments of the orchestra cards (which now have color-coded dots on the back, indicating the family to which they belong) and, using this little material, sort them into their families. The dots serve as control of error. A more advanced child can sort the instrument name labels only, which also have color-coded dots on the back.

A simple CD pouch, hand-embroidered, to hold a special CD, such as entire works of a certain composer, music of a specific genre, etc. This material won't be on the shelf all of the time, only on special occasions.

Happy Easter to all! May you eat plentiful chocolate, and, in my family's case, may you emerge alive and covered in confetti. Here are some confetti-filled eggshells decorated by my talented aunt. Don't worry, these are not crushed on the heads of willing victims (see previous link.) I think these have been decorations in my parents' house for upwards of 15 years now!

Labels: ,

How to make a lined, drawstring bag

Thanks to Karla Norgaard for submitting this tutorial! Questions? Email Karla at knorgy(at) To submit an idea/tutorial, email instructions and photos to montessorirevolution(at)

This bag can be used for many different applications in the
classroom. This one is for a mystery bag. I also made a set of 4
smaller bags to hold fraction operations.

1. First decide what size you want your bag to be. I am making a
mystery bag for toddlers. My measurements are 9" wide by 9" tall. I
will also make a 3/4" casing for the drawstring and I will add 1 1/2"
above the drawstring for a gathered top. The total measurements for
my finished bag will be 9" x 11 1/4". (See diagram under "patterns" at the Yahoo group.)

2. Now we need to find the measurement for the raw fabric pieces. Add
1" to your width for seam allowances (10"). Double the height, then
add 1" for seam allowances (23 1/2"). My raw fabric will measure 10"
x 23 1/2".

3. Iron your fabric. Measure and mark the wrong side of the fabric
with a chalk pencil and ruler. Cut 2 pieces of fabric to your size.

4. Place your fabric with right sides together on a table or hard
surface. Measure 9 1/2" from a short end of the bag toward the
center. Mark fabric near the edge of the fabric. Repeat for the other
sides, for a total of 4 marks. (Note that 9 1/2" is the measurement
for my bag. You will mark your bag at 1/2" more than the height of
your bag.)

5. From each of the 4 marks you just made, measure and mark another
3/4" toward the center of the fabric. There will be a total of eight
marks. You will not be sewing in between these marks. I like to mark
with a pencil in between these marks to remind me not to sew in these

6. In the center of one of the short ends, mark a 4" space which you
will leave open for turning the bag right side out.

7. Pin all around the fabric.

8. Sew 1/2" seam all around except between the sets of marks. Make
sure to backstitch before and after each opening. There will be a
total of five spaces where you will not sew.

9. Trim the threads at each of the five openings. Clip the corners.

10. With the bag flat on an ironing board, turn the top flap of each
seam allowance toward the center of the bag and press. After all four
sides are pressed, flip the bag over and repeat.

11. Use the 4" opening to turn the bag right side out. Use a closed
pair of scissors to gently turn the corners.

12. Topstitch close to the edge of the side with the 4" opening.

13. Turn the topstitched seam into the bag until it reaches the
bottom of the bag.
14. Make sure the drawstring holes in the side seams line up. Pin in
15. Stitch around the circumference of the bag from the top of one of
the drawstring openings to the other to create the drawstring casing.
Stitch back and forth several times at each opening to reinforce the
seam. Repeat for the bottom of the casing.

16. Cut 2 lengths of ribbon, each about 3 1/2 times the width of your
bag. Approximately 32" for my bag.

17. Attach a safety pin to the end of one ribbon and thread it
through both sides of the casing. Repeat for the second ribbon, this
time start threading from the opposite side of the bag. You will be
left with two lengths of ribbon hanging out of each side of the bag.

18. Burn the ends of the ribbon to prevent fraying. Tie the ribbons
together. If your ribbon is thin enough (or your beads are big
enough) you can add a bead to each end before tying the ribbons

19. Pull on both ribbons at once to close the bag.

Labels: , ,


More music paraphernalia - this time I get to show off my audio editing skills! I hope my husband reads this post, because he will have to take back all that he said about me being a bit "slow" when it comes to the computer. Ha!

At the "View My Files" button in the side bar, your will find some more files: Composers 3-part cards and sound clips. Sound clips! Whoopee! Music isn't about pictures, folks, its about MUSIC! So why in the world would you have composer cards (or instrument cards) without listening to songs written by them? Et voila! Here you have it: 18 clips of songs by the 18 composers on the cards, edited with fade-ins and fade-outs.

The child puts on the disc (almost 16 minutes total running time) and spreads out the picture cards (without names) on a rug. She then picks the photo of the composer while listening to the part of his song. At the end, she can check her work to see if she matched correctly. (Number the composer photos from 1-18 in order of appearance on the CD.) If you copy directly from the folder to the left, the order will be:

1- Dvorak
2- Prokofiev
3- Beethoven
5- Bach
6- Pachelbel
7- Chopin
8- Mozart
9- Rachmaninoff
10- Miles Davis
11- Verdi
12- Debussy
13- Scott Joplin
14- Gershwin
15- Copeland
16- Bernstein
17- Vivaldi
18- Tchaikovsky

Also label the back of the name cards . This is a more advanced exercise for children who are already reading. They match the names only to the CD track.

Be sure when burning the CD that you burn it with individual tracks with a 2-second pause between each.

Of course, this puts a whole new spin on how you present these composers to the children. No more will they wonder why in the world you are showing them pictures of goofy looking men and telling them their names. Now you can present the names of the composers to the child with the audio. Present 2-3 composers and clips at a time.

You might have guessed by now, but music is really my "thing." I love all of the Cultural Areas of the curriculum, but music has a special place in my heart. I've always been a singer and I dabble in guitar and piano. When I was a teenager I was classically trained, but all that theory, voice and passion now manifests itself in singing La Bamba with a group of dancin' 3-6 year olds. So worth it!


Labels: ,

Instrument Families Definition Stages

For your downloading enjoyment, I present:

Definition Stages material for the instrument families. The Word file is available to members of the Yahoo group, and the photos (also in Word format) can be downloaded at the "View My Files" button under "Definition States photos." Please ignore the extra photo-montage of the special instruments. Just leave them out. It makes more sense with just the four main categories.

Check out Karla's awesome tutorial to make the definition stages pouch. I lined mine with black silk dupion. The orchestra fabric (rad!) I found a while back at Craft Connection. My cards are still waiting to be laminated, and the pouch is patiently waiting for my husband to return from the US with my new button stash.
Here's how my 3-part card modified duvet turned out for the instruments.

Also, make sure to check out the 3-part cards for the BEACH! that Debi downloaded for the Yahoo group. Thanks for contributing! Anyone else? :)

Labels: ,

Things on sticks, stones, and treasure troves

Here's a jicama lollipop, folks! Called a jicaleta here in Mexico, a slice of jicama is covered with mango chile and plopped on a popsicle stick. Yum. This was my lunch.

Today I had a leisurely walk into town in search of odds and ends for my classroom. This week is Semana Santa, or Holy Week, and the town is just buzzing with tourists who come to see the rituals of the native Tarahumara. Most of the tourists, both from within Mexico and from abroad, come in tomorrow. The good part about living here is that I have inside knowledge that the artisans start selling their wares today, before the masses encroach. Here's what I found:

1.) An awesome wooden tray in the form of an apple. Ooooh! This will go so well with the little apple apron I made during my training!
2.) A "minute-glass" for use in a meditation exercise that I read about in Aline Wolf's "Nurturing the Spirit of the Child in Non-Sectarian Classrooms." I read the Spanish version, which was uplifting and full of practical ideas. It comes highly recommended.
3.) A hand-woven pine needle basket that smells scrumptious.

4.) A hand-carved, wooden kitty bowl! This wasn't actually for sale, as it was holding stones, but I made them sell it to me. (By being nice, of course!) What use does something like this have but in my classroom?

5.) A pretty, hand-painted, sliding box. It's actually a set of dominos at the moment, but that can be remedied.
6.) A squirrel, hand-carved by the father of one of my former Tarahumara students.
7.) A miniature watering can made of oxidized copper.

8.) And something for me! You might have heard that Mexico is known for its silversmiths. Here's a great example - this necklace is made with amber and a bit of turquoise. The artisans travel from all over Mexico to come to Creel for Easter. It was hard to choose which one I wanted! Plus, I love wearing jewelry with real stones in the classroom. The children ask what it is, and I tell them a little "cultural story" about the name of the stone, where it is found, and how it was formed. (Hey, an advantage to having a geologist for a dad!) The older ones think it's pretty cool.

I'm off to make some more music materials. You might have guessed, but I am trying to put together my entire music curriculum over this Easter break. Expect more fun materials and downloads, such as Definition Stages for orchestral instrument families!

Un abrazo (a hug),


Instruments of the Orchestra!!!

I've been wanting to design this material for quite some time, and it's finally done! It took me a while to find the components I needed to make an audio/visual exercise where the children matched an audio clip of the instrument to a photo of that instrument. You can download this material by clicking on the "View My Files" button in the side bar. I will also be sharing a tutorial on how to make the CD/card book shown below:

The catalyst in this endeavor was ordering the following CD from Montessori Services. "Peter Ustinov reads The Orchestra" provided me with clips of each instrument organized by instrument families: strings, woodwinds, brass, percussion, and special instruments. Previously I had contacted various symphony orchestras to ask if they could provide the clips that I needed, but to no avail.

I highly encourage you to order the entire CD, and if you are a parent, to get the book that accompanies it. For those of you who can't afford it or live outside the United States, I have uploaded to (see sidebar) the five excerpts you will need for this exercise. Please download these only if you really can't afford the CD.

Once you have the CD, burn copies of each "song," from numbers 5-9, on a separate CD. Does this make sense? For example, you will have "The String Family" on one CD, "The Brass Family" on another, etc.

Also, print off the Word file available at that contains the accompanying 3-part cards of photos of the instruments. Both the aforementioned files are in the folder "Instruments of the Orchestra." I suggest printing the cards on hefty cardstock. For this particular audio/visual exercise, you will need the cards without labels. (The control cards and labels are also included in the file. To store them, I'm planning on making the modified card duvet with the same instrument fabric.) On the back of each picture card, you will need to write the instrument family to which it belongs, and the number of the order in which it is heard on the CD. This serves as the control of error. For example, the clarinet card would have on the back:

The Woodwind Family - 5

When the child finishes, she can turn over the picture cards and check if the numbers are in order. The family name is important because the children can do a sorting exercise with the cards as well. Write up labels for each of the families. The child places the labels on the top of a rug and mixes up all the photo cards, sorting them into their families under the labels. The family name is the control of error for this exercise.

Here's how to make the CD book. I used a "fat quarter" of instrument fabric I ordered a while back at Craft Connection and 3/4 yard of golden silk dupion. (Elegant!) Unfortunately, the golden silk doesn't photograph well on the clunker of a camera, but what does?

Cut one outer fabric (the instruments) and one liner fabric to 43cm x 35cm. Then cut 5 strips of the liner fabric to 9cm x 35 cm.

On each of the strips, fold a long edge 1/4 in toward the wrong side of the fabric and press. Fold over once more (1/4 in) and press. On 4 strips, fold over the opposite long edge 1/4 in and press toward the wrong side. The one strip that is left without a fold is the bottom strip, which will be caught within the seam and finished when you attach the liner to the outer fabric.

Stitch each strip along the double folded edge. Press each strip after stitching.

Arrange the five strips, stitched side up, on the large piece of liner fabric. Check to see that five CDs and the cards fit.
Pin the top strip about 9cm down from the top. Sew along three sides, leaving the finished seam unattached. Make sure you catch the 1/4 in fold on the bottom in your stitching. This leaves a nice finished edge on the bottom that won't unravel. Press. Attach the next strip in the same manner, pressing after each strip.
With right sides facing, pin inner pocket lining to outer fabric. Using a 1/2 in seam, stitch pieces together. At the top of the book, machine baste the seam. This will eventually be ripped open for turning.
Trim corners and edges and press open the top, machine-basted area. Use a seam ripper to open. Turn the whole thing inside out and press once again.

Fold in half with the pockets facing out. Using pins, mark the center of the book. Starting from the bottom, stitch a seam to the top, using the pins as guides. Be sure that the open, pressed edge is folded toward the inside, and caught in this middle seam.

Cut 2 pieces of cardboard for a snug fit. Insert, and hand stitch closed.

That's it! It's pretty simple to make. I will put some cute music note closures on it when my husband gets back from the US with all of the goodies I ordered from Reprodepot and Craft Connection. You could put a snap closure on this or a bow closure - whatever floats your boat.

Hope you enjoy!


Labels: , ,

Moleskine Cover Tutorial

Vacation! Sew what, you say? Oh, how corny. But I do plan on sewing up some new projects and finishing off a few that are on the knitting and embroidery needles during this 2 week break. Here's today's completed project, a Moleskine journal cover.

I found this tutorial from Keyka Lou, who happens to sell these at her Etsy shop, for those of you who aren't so keen on crafting.

I use my moleskine as a repository for ideas for the classroom and material making/crafting. You might consider using one for your observations in the classroom. It would also make a snazzy gift.

I've been fiddling around with a new design for the world music curriculum CD's. I might come out of this process with less hair, but I'm determined to also come out of it with a stellar CD pocket. Thus far, I have tackled one of the difficulties - how to appliqué silk dupion cut-outs of each continent onto the front pocket fabric. For this, I must heap all gratitude at the feet of two fellow bloggers - Anna Maria and Liesl, who posted tutorials on the process. I ended up using a mix of the two methods because I can't get my hands on the freezer paper Liesl uses in her process. More about this later, when I have a fully presentable CD pocket tutorial for y'all. I'll have plenty of time to work on it, as Patrick left today for his grandmother's funeral in Florida.

I miss him (sigh) and I miss what he took with him so he can continue to work while away from the desktop (sigh.) Actually, I get along just fine on this Goliath of a computer, but I just realized that my photos of the cute eggshell decorations are en route to Florida on my laptop! I have a green kitty egg to share, made by Carlos. It will have to wait.

Hey, have you noticed the new happenings in my sidebar? I'm up on Flickr, but it will take me a little while to organize the photos. Also, I've added an "Inspirational Blogs" section. If you are at all interested in tapping into this creative community, check out my recommendations. These bloggers might not be Montessorians, but they are artists who write about their creative processes, share inspiration and tips, and encourage one another in their creative endeavors. My current favorite is Anna Maria Horner - her style is so exuberant and colorful, and her writing is welcoming in a "have a cup of tea, put your feet up and chat with me" kind of way.

I hope you are all enjoying the blossoms and the weather mood swings of early spring. While it snowed a mere week ago here in mountainous Mexico, tomorrow I will be planting our onions. Go figure.