Growth Mindset Brag Tags!

It’s a new year! I wanted to start the new year off right by re-vamping my behavior management system.  I started using these growth mindset brag tags I made with my 5th graders this past September and they loved the idea.  Now for the new year, I decided to use them with my entire school!

What are brag tags?

Brag tags are fun little tags you can print, laminate, and cut out for your students. Students then earn tags and save them.  I have my students save them on binder rings, but I have seen other teachers use necklaces or even booklets.  The kids love collecting the tags! It has saved me a ton of money since I don’t have to constantly buy them prizes.

Brag tags in specials?

Yes! As a music special subject teacher I see over 500 students a week! How can I possibly make enough brag tags? Well, I don’t give them to everyone all the time.

How do I give out the tags?

At the beginning of the class period, I tell the students I will be giving out brag tags to two students who are exhibiting a certain behavior.  I may put the two tags on the board or I may just tell the students.  The tags I have include:
• Mistakes help me grow
• I have a growth mindset
• I made a connection
• I kept trying
• I am in control of my amazing brain
• I showed initiative
• Popping dendrites
• Kiss your brain
• I can make comparisons
• I am optimistic
• I practiced

At the end of the class, I choose two students who I think exhibited that behavior to earn the brag tag.  If the class as a whole did a great job, I also pick two more students at random to earn two other brag tags.  I do this by choosing two numbers from a cup (I have safety numbers on popsicle sticks in a cup). If a class is particularly amazing, then everyone can earn a brag tag that day.  I try to check off who earned a brag tag on my roster so that way other students can get a chance to earn one.

Check out this FREE sample growth-mindset-brag-tags-connection to use with your class!

You can find my complete set of brag tags in my Growth Mindset Brag Tags Set


These growth mindset brag tags really helped to promote a positive mindset in my 5th grade students.  Having them think about a particular positive behavior each week has really transformed the way they participate in music.  I hope to produce the same results next week with my younger students! Do you use brag tags in your classroom?

Improve Classroom Behavior with a Mindful Exercise

Mindful Machine.001.jpeg

Are you starting school soon?  I don’t start until September 1st, but I’m already thinking of new ideas to use to get the attention of my class.  We all use different strategies to quiet a noisy room (quiet claps, echoes, two fingers up, class-yes).  But I wanted to think of a new way to signal for quiet while helping my kids to become more mindful.

The Mindful Machine

What you need:

A visual of a brain, which you can download below, and attach to a construction paper headband (or you can just point to your head if you don’t want to wear funny brain crowns).

How to do it:

  1. First introduce the new quiet signal to your class.  Say, “When I say Mindful Machine and put on this headband, we are all going to point to our heads and say “shh” while lowering our arms.”
  2. Try it.  Say Mindful Machine and have the students point to their heads and say “shh” while lowering their arms.
  3. You can point out that when they do it correctly, they look and sound like a giant machine getting ready to learn.
  4. Practice this new attention getter.
  5. If you really want to get creative and aren’t afraid of looking silly, get a picture of a brain, glue it to a construction paper head band and put it on every time you say Mindful Machine. This will definitely add to the visual component and I’m sure the kids will get a kick out of it.  You can download a FREE brain to use to make your own construction paper headband here. Brain
  6. Now every time you say Mindful Machine, put your brain crown on and have the kids say “shh”.  This will help them to be more mindful and stop, think, and listen to directions.  Plus, looking at you wearing a brain will be sure to put smile on all of your students’ faces.

Happy Students= More Learning!

Mindful Monday: Create a Positive Classroom With a Happy Song

Yes, I'm Happy Song.001It is so important to help our students feel happy and engaged as soon as they walk through that classroom door.  As a music teacher, I always start my K-3 classes off with a hello song.  I find it brings them together and gives them something to do right away.  

Here is a hello song I wrote to the tune of “Ode to Joy” by Beethoven to help my students feel happy and engaged.

Yes, I’m happy.

Yes, you’re happy.

We are here to learn and play.

Growing, sharing, helping, caring are some ways to start the day.

Making music with my classmates

Makes me want to shout hooray!

Yes, I’m happy.

Yes, you’re happy.

And that’s all I have to say!


You can even add student names to the song in the beginning of the year if you would like to help you remember all of those names! (example: Yes, there’s Andrew and there’s Natalie and there’s Steven and Jolene).

To make students feel especially engaged, have a student come to the front of the room and lead the class in a movement while they sing the song.  For example, have a student think of an easy movement such as jumping, clapping, hopping, etc. and lead the class in this movement for the entire song.  You may pick 1 or 2 students per week to do this (you may want to pick more outgoing kids first).

After a while, you can even talk about musical form with this song and have your students come up with different movements for each line of music that is different.  Have fun coming up with different ways to use this song in your class.

Do you start your class off with a hello song? What songs do you use? Please feel free to leave a comment below 🙂
Happy Students= More Learning!

Mindful Monday: What Went Well

Mindful Monday1 WWW.001I have been busy trying to finish up my last grad class in Brain-Based teaching through Nova Southeastern University.  I have read so many books and articles this past year that my head is starting to spin!

However, I am so excited to share some interesting, fun tips I’ve learned through my graduate studies.  Hopefully you can use them in your classroom to start the year off right!

Mindful Monday

On Mondays, I will post a helpful tip, worksheet, activity, or idea to help you to create a brain-based classroom.

This week= What Went Well

You can download this FREE worksheet below.

 What Went Well Day1

What Went Well Week1

Special thanks to Glitter Meets Glue for the fun pen graphic. 

What is this?

Have your students end the day or lesson positively by writing down something positive that happened to them during the day and why they think this positive event happened. (I’ve also included a weekly version if you would rather your students do this exercise on a weekly basis.  Since I only see my music students once a week, I will be doing it this way.  I plan on having my 4th and 5th graders attach this sheet to the back of their keyboard folders for easy access after keyboard time).

Why do this?

Because greater well-being enhances learning.  When we teach our students to be grateful for the little things, they will work harder and pay more attention because they feel happier.  As Dr. Martin Seligman in his awesome book Flourish (2012, p. 80) states, “positive mood produces broader attention, more creative thinking, and more holistic thinking.”  

So let’s help our students get those happy juices flowing by having them think of things that went well during the day.

Happy Students= More Learning!



How to Jazz up Those Cardboard Boxes and Create Storage!

Do you have enough storage in your classroom?  If you are like me, the answer is no!  I needed an inexpensive way to hold all of my books and magazines I currently have piled on the floor in my classroom.  

I have a two-year-old at home and she goes through a lot of diapers.  I realized I’ve been throwing out storage boxes all of these years!

The problem is, no one wants a diaper box sitting in the middle of their classroom.

The solution: decoupage!

Box Transformation

What is decoupage? Basically, decoupage involves cutting pieces of paper and pasting them to an object.  Usually, you use a varnish or lacquer to seal it at the end, but I chose not to do this step since I figured I would be the only one handling these boxes.  If your students will be handling the boxes, then by all means feel free to seal it up.

How I did it:

Step 1- Gather together glue, scissors, a paintbrush, and paper you would like to use.  I chose some old sheet music since it will go well in my music class.


Step 2- Cut the paper into strips.  It doesn’t have to be perfect since you will be overlapping the strips.

paper strips.jpg

Step 3- Put your glue in a bowl with water (about a 1:1 ratio).

glue bowl.jpg

Step 4- Mix up the glue and water mixture.  You may have to add more glue or more water depending on the consistency. My two-year-old is helping me mix 🙂

mix glue.jpg

Step 5- Paint your glue mixture on to the box and place your strips on it.  Cover your strips with more glue.  Keep going until your box is covered with paper strips.  After it dries, you may want to spray a varnish over top.


Step 6- Enjoy your beautiful new storage box!

storage box.jpg
Have you ever reused things in your classroom? Feel free to leave a comment below.


Slide from my Brain Mini-Unit Lesson Plans

Teaching Kids About Neuroscience and How We Learn

Neuroscience for kids? Yes!
I decided to begin an interesting journey with my music students. I am lucky to have a 25-keyboard piano lab in my music classroom. The kids love playing songs on the keyboards but hate the initial practice and work it takes to learn a song. Many students wanted to give up when they were presented with a song that they found challenging. I always told them to keep trying and that it takes a while to really learn something and be good at it.

My classroom piano lab

My classroom piano lab

Even though this approach worked with many of my kids, I needed something to show the non-believers that they can get better with practice.

Enter the brain.

I am currently a Master of Science candidate at Nova Southeastern University where I am studying Brain-Based Teaching and Learning. I’ve learned so much about the brain and how we learn and I desperately wanted to bring this back to my kiddies. The challenge was to find a way to present such complex information to 4th and 5th graders.

“Popping Dendrites, Bro!”
I decided to teach my students about neurons and how when we make connections with what we are learning to something we already know, some of our neurons actually connect. I showed my students some slides on my SmartBoard about why it is so important to make these connections. We also spoke about dendrites and how when we learn something new, our neurons will actually grow more dendrites.

My 5th grade students were so interested in this. One of them exclaimed “I’m learning about how I learn and growing more dendrites!”

I stress to my students that learning takes time. We need to give our neurons time to make connections and grow dendrites. This seemed to really make sense to the kids.

I then asked my students to write about what they just learned and then think of something that reminds them about what they learned. The responses were amazing! I couldn’t believe all of the wonderfully complex connections my students were able to come up with! As one student put it, “We’re popping dendrites, Bro!”

Neurons worksheet I made for students
Neurons worksheet I made for students

Neurons worksheet I made for students

I can’t wait to teach my kids more about the brain. I’m interested to see if having them learn about learning will help them in the piano lab as well as in their regular classroom. A teacher can dream! 🙂

You can check out this lesson I created about the brain as well as others in my Growth Mindset Brain Unit:

Growth Mindset Brain Unit Lesson Plans

Do you have any experiences teaching your kiddies about the brain? Let me know by leaving a comment below!

Whole Brain Teaching Music Rules

As I ready my classroom for my kiddies, I’ve been thinking about what rules I want to introduce. Last year I began whole brain teaching in my music classroom. I started with two components: Class. Yes! and the 5 rules. In this post I will tell you a little bit about my rules.
Last year I introduced the 5 WBT rules with my kids with the accompanying gestures. Using gestures and movement with your kiddies is very important be aide any it helps create connections in the brain. The bigger the movement the stronger the connection.

The 5 rules I did were:

  • Follow directions quickly (move one hand in a quick, wiggly line)
  • Raise your hand for permission to speak (raise hand and then make speak movement with hand)
  • Raise your hand for permission to leave your seat (raise hand and then make walk gesture with fingers)
  • Make smart choices (point at head with one finger)
  • Keep your dear teacher happy (Hands near face, move them back and forth.)

This year I decided to change rule number 3 a little bit. You know how when one kid raises their hand and asks to go to the bathroom and suddenly half the class realizes they have to go to?!?! This kept happening in my class so I changed rule #3 to
Use your gestures for permission to leave your seat. I will have kids do the sign language sign for toilet when they have to use the bathroom. Hopefully this will cause less disruptions.

I have the kids recite the rules in the beginning of each class using gestures. Then they turn and “teach” their partner. More on that in an upcoming post. I love having them rehearse the rules because when one child decides to break the rule all I have to do is say “rule # 2” and all my kiddies will say “Raise your hand for permission to speak”. Usually this acts as a great reminder for the offending kiddie.

This year I also decided to incorporate music into my rules. I figured it would be a good idea since I am a music teacher after all 😀. I set the words of each Whole Brain Teaching Rule to coincide with its rhythm. I will say each rule and clap the rhythm of the words at the same time.
I am planning on using them as a quick note reading exercise in the beginning of class.
I made the rhythms fairly easy so even my 1st graders can say and clap them.
You can see some examples below.

WBT Music Rules

WBT Music Rules

You can find them on my TpT store here.

Have you used WBT in your class?

Trash to Treasure

You know the saying, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”. Well, I’m taking that to heart as I set up my classroom. I desperately needed more storage options for my rhythm sticks and mallets but I don’t have the money to go out and buy so many buckets.  Luckily the art teacher in my school was getting rid of a bunch of Model Magic buckets.  Treasure!!  I am now using them as storage for all sorts of things.  I plan on using them to create a storage center for tape, scissors, staples, etc.  What have you reused in your classroom?

Model Magic Buckets

Model Magic Buckets

Fun with Play-Doh Music Mats

As summer begins to wind down, I’ve been trying to spend as much time as possible with my two daughters. My 4-year-old loves to play with Play-Doh! What kid doesn’t?

Daughter playing with Play-doh music mats

Daughter playing with Play-doh music mats

I created some cute Play-Doh music mats for my daughter to use. You can see how much my little cutie loved carving and shaping music notes out of Play-Doh. So much fun! It made me think of my kids at school. They would love to play with Play-Doh during our center time.

You can find this Play-Doh Music Mat Set with over 20 notes, rests, and symbols at my Teachers Pay Teachers store. . I can’t wait to use it with my school kiddies in the fall! Center time!

Play-Doh Music Mats

A Little About Me and Brain-Based Teaching

Hi! I am so excited that you’ve come to visit my blog! I am a K-5 general music and chorus teacher in central New Jersey.  I enjoy instilling in my kiddies a love and appreciation for music and the arts.

Recently, I embarked on a journey to earn my Master’s degree in Brain-based Teaching and Learning through Nova Southeastern University’s BrainSMART program.  It is truly an amazing program that mixes cognitive neuroscience with educational research.  I can’t even begin to explain how much I have learned in the two classes that I have taken so far.  I have been applying certain aspects of what I have learned in my regular classroom before summer break and now in my Preschool Piano class I teach during the summer.  My little 4-year-olds are eating it up!! To see preschoolers discuss terms such as inferences, using cues, and making connections with such ease is a dream come true for any educator.  In future posts I will be discussing some really cool activities and lessons I did with my preschool kiddies that involves Brain-based teaching.  Can’t wait to share it with you!