Monday, February 28, 2022

Envelope for Collecting Papers


After handwriting a heading on a piece of paper and taping it on to a manila envelope for several years, I realized there were a limited number of types of things I would collect each year: sign-up sheets, permission slips, Solo/Ensemble registrations, composition assignments.  I decided to type up headings, laminate them, and attach Velcro dots to them and the envelope.  It looks a lot nicer than before, and the sheets can be reused each year.  Since they're laminated, I can also use a dry-erase marker to write a due date and then erase it afterwards.  The envelope is also Velcro-ed to the wall, so I can remove it when there aren't any papers needing to be turned in.

"Please turn in" signs 

Monday, February 21, 2022

Elementary Orchestra Solo/Ensemble, Part 3: Creating the Schedule


For creating the Solo/Ensemble festival schedule, I use two documents.  One is the one-page master schedule which lets me see the entire schedule at a glance, and the other is the Google Sheets master schedule.  I had an administrator one year show me how to link different tabs (and even documents) to the master schedule so that they automatically update when I make a change on the master schedule tab.  I was so excited to learn about this--before then, I would email PDFs to families, but then once any updates were made (which inevitably happens), those PDFs are no longer current and I'd have to send out a new one.  Now families can access the link whenever they want and see the most up-to-date schedule.  I cannot thank him enough for showing this to me!!!  

The process of making the schedule takes a bit of preparation and time.  First I enter all the entries into the Google Sheets master document, using ? for any students in a registered student's ensemble who I haven't received a registration form yet.  I'll check in with those families individually the next week to see if they can participate or if I should delete their name from the schedule.  If any members of an ensemble are also doing a solo, I am sure to add those entries next so that they're all grouped together before I start assigning times.  

The different headings in the Google Sheets master schedule include Site, Time slot, Name(s) [first name only], Name(s) [full name], School, Grade, Title, Time Request, Adjudicator.  (I keep the Site, Time slot, and Adjudicator blank until I'm actually assigning times.)  I have the two separate columns for names because I'll use the full name on the schedules I post outside of the sites at the festival and to use mail-merge later on to create the rubrics and then the first name on the schedules I share with families to share privacy of the students a little bit (and hide the column with the full names).

To begin scheduling, I'll write in a few break times for adjudicators on the one-page master document, spacing them out so each adjudicator has their break during a different time slot.  This one-page master document has 5 sites with 8-minute time slots running from 8:00 am to 12:00 noon, so 30 time slots per adjudicator, 150 time slots total.

Then I start assigning times to those with time requests first, being sure to add their names to the one-page master schedule and then type the corresponding site and time on the Google Sheets master schedule.  Any students who are in more than one event get scheduled two or three slots away from their first time so that they don't have to be at the festival the entire morning.  I don't schedule them any closer than two or three slots away in case their first room is running late and their second room is running ahead of schedule.  I do want a little bit of a breather in-between for the student to regroup and focus on their next piece.

After the entries with time requests are scheduled (and any of those students' ensemble partners' solos), I look for students who are in more than one event and schedule them next, putting each of their events in different sites so they will get to work with more than one adjudicator.  If there are any ensembles where only one member can attend, I plan to play with that student as their ensemble partner and then am careful not to double-book myself during a particular time slot. 

Finally students who are only playing a solo, no ensemble, and have no time requests get entered last to fill in the spaces.  When it gets down to the last few, I'll count the number of events and empty slots for each adjudicator so I can even it out as best as I can.  Any super late registrations that come in after this point can get added to any empty slots until the schedule is filled.

Once the Google Sheets master schedule is completed, I go to Data, Sort range, then Advanced range sorting options. Be sure to check "Data has header row," then sort by "Time Slot" and then by "Site."  Now I can look through the other tabs that auto-populate to see the schedule for each site, and the entries for each school from the beginning of the day to the end.  I can't believe I used to do all those different sorts manually and then copy/paste into new tabs and then have to update all of those for any changes!  This function is a life saver! 

In this picture above of the Maple tab, I'm getting an error (where it says #N/A in A2) because in the query line, it says D='Maple', but in my master tab (below), the name of the school is really in column E, not D. 

Once I change D='Maple' to E='Maple' in that formula, the entry from the Master tab with "Maple" as the school auto-populates into the "Maple" tab.

Here's what the formula looks like for the Site A tab:

For Site B, the last bit would say where A='B'").  I wanted the student's full name, not the first name for this tab, so up in the query line, I have "select A,B,D,E,F,G,H,I where A+'A'"--I skipped C, which is the column in the Master tab with the first name.

Once all that looks good, I do create separate Google Sheets schedules for each school's tab.  In a new Google Sheet, I copy/paste the formula down below into the A1 box.

In the A1 box, here's what's inside: =IMPORTRANGE("", "Maple!A1:N")

The http://.... is the URL of the Google Sheets master document.  After the , " is the name of the tab I want, in this case Maple.  This document auto-populates, and it automatically updates whenever something on the Google Sheets master document gets changed.  I make sure the column with the students' full names is hidden on this document, as I will change the sharing permissions to "Anyone with the link can view." and I'll share this one with families and post on our class Canvas page.  I also go to Format, Alternating colors to make this one easier to read.  This is the file I will print and post in the orchestra room too.

For the festival, I print off a copy of the one-page master document for myself and then copies of the schedules for each site to place outside each room and to put in each adjudicator's folder.  A copy of the schedule by school (and also by site) gets taped to the wall in the cafeteria, where students are warming up, so they can look if they need to check their time.

While I don't totally understand the formulas in Google Sheets, I can copy/paste from the previous year and make adjustments as needed to make sure everything is auto-populating as it should.  Please let me know if there are any steps I should clarify or provide screenshots of!

Monday, February 7, 2022

Labels for Cases

 A few years ago, my district purchased new cello cases for our school instruments, so I ordered these plastic key tags to use as labels.  I liked that these came in different colors, so it was easy for students to identify their case out of the pile of cello cases when time to pack up.  Each year I type up the names of the students who are renting school instruments in the following document, then print, cut, and fold the strip in half.  I use a penny to open the key tag, and then the paper fits right inside.

Monday, January 10, 2022

Labels for Equipment and Instrument Racks


For our district-wide annual String Fest, we hire movers to transport chair and stand racks as well as cello and bass racks from the elementary schools to the high school's field house.  We want everything to end up racked up properly and returned to the proper school afterwards, so we are careful to label everything clearly.  I like to color code everything by school and add a picture of the school's mascot too.  I laminate the labels and then just use masking tape to affix to both the back and front of racks.

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Stackable Shelves for Folders


Last fall I made copies of just about every handout and piece of music that students would need for the first semester and stuffed folders just in case we had to switch to virtual learning at some point.  I ended up really appreciating not spending so much time in the copy room just about every week, so I did the same thing this fall.  I also made up spare folders for each instrument in case a student forgets their music at home.  Between four instruments and two grade levels and multiple folders per part, I had an unorganized stack of folders that was really bugging me.  I had to dig through the pile just to find the one I was looking for and didn't have a good system to keep them organized.

After a great find at Goodwill (under $5 total!) and some homemade color-coded labels, these stackable shelves are the perfect fit for these orchestra folders!

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Conducting Beginning-of-the-Year Bulletin Board


For this year's beginning-of-the-year bulletin board, I wanted to do something with conducting patterns.  I came up with the title "Lead The Way to a Year of Learning!"  I also thought about doing "Lead the Way to a ____ Year" with lots of different adjectives in different fonts and colors, but then I thought that would look too busy.  In addition to the conducting patterns and time signatures, I included pictures of a diverse set of composers.

I went over the time signatures and conducting patterns with a permanent marker to make them less pixel-y. 

Featured conductors include:

  • Leonard Bernstein
  • Gustavo Dudamel
  • JoAnn Falletta
  • William Grant Still
  • Eun Sun Kim
  • Zubin Mehta
  • Matthew Smith (read more about his story here)

Monday, October 5, 2020

Fingering Chart Displays


Fingering chart violin viola cello bass

After seeing a fingering poster online that another orchestra teacher had created, I knew I wanted to make a set for myself.  I cut strips of black paper at various widths to show the strings from thickest to thinnest (1/4", 1/2", 3/4", 1"), laminated the poster, then used Velcro to mark where each note would go.  Each letter name bubble was cut out, laminated, and Velcro-ed.  I also taped a plastic baggie to the back of the poster to store the unused notes.  At one school, I have a strip of cork board above the white board, so I use a push pin to display the poster.  At the other school, I ran a couple strips of Velcro just above the white board, so I attach those posters with Velcro.

With beginners, I can have all the notes removed to just show the open strings, and then I can add the D string notes as we get there.  With the second-year students, I can start with the D Major scale notes, or show those low 2 notes, or whatever it is we're focusing on.  

This year I'm color-coding the tapes rather than just using black pin striping tape.  For violins/violas, 1 = red, 3 = black, and 4 = blue (no tape for 2).  For cellos, 2nd finger is red, and the rest are black (thumb goes behind red tape).  On bass, first position 1 and 4 are red, and third position 1 and 4 are black.  For the posters, I kept the red paper for the red tape notes and otherwise used blue paper.  Maybe I should have added an extra column for the finger numbers, but for now it's working to stick the numbers on a string that we're not using at the moment.

Open string labels (Word doc)

Open string labels (PDF)

Fingering chart note bubbles and instrument labels (Word doc)--should be enough for two sets; I printed the first page on red paper, the rest on blue--just double check it has all the notes you want

Fingering chart note bubbles and instrument labels (PDF)

Fingering chart violin

Fingering chart violin

fingering chart violin viola cello bass

fingering chart violin viola cello bass