You Are The Music Makers

You Are The Music Makers

Last month, Manuel Herrera and I were lucky enough to work with teachers in the Jackson R-2 School District. One of our workshops was designed specifically for the district’s elementary music teachers. Manuel and I are both big advocates for arts education – and work to integrate the arts and creation into core classes – so we were very excited to work with this team!

One of the tools we used with the music tealogo.pngm was Song Maker. Song Maker is one of the many tools in Chrome Music Lab. The more we worked with this fun, user friendly tool, we started to see the many connections to core content areas. In the time since our work in Jackson, Manuel and I have continued to revisit Song Maker and develop some fun activities to get kids creating and collaborating around music.


writing.pngPut Music to Writing. In Jackson, Manuel and I did a Paint Chip Poetry activity with the music teachers, where they created poetry from the names of paint chips. Then, that poetry turned into lyrics as it was put to music. Song Maker is a great tool to put any student poetry or writing to music, instantly transforming students’ words into lyrics and creating a whole new piece of art!



Songs About Science. What does the water cycle sound like? Does precipitation sound heavier or louder than evaporation? Pick any process in science, and ask students to first take notes on the different parts of the process – importance of each step, speed at which the process moves, and even how they feel about the process, etc. Then create a song that represents that process.

When students in early elementary collect weather data through the week, they typically graph their observations. Take that a step further and have them write a Weather Song for the week – rain and sun probably sound very different! Can you hear the different days and weather in this song?



Soundtrack a Story. Students retell a scene or chapter from a book through a song, or use music to represent a character’s feelings. Rising action likely sounds very different than falling action! In The Hunger Games, the scene when Katniss takes her sister’s place would have a very different tone than when Katniss is in the arena.

Imagine all the characters in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby – each of their personalities or feelings would sound very different when told through music – happy, angry, excited, in love, etc.



Musical Math. When younger students are learning about patterns, have them arrange a piece of music that follows a certain pattern. Give students this handout to create their pattern first, then build it in Song Maker. Once their pattern is created, encourage them to make changes by adding or deleting in order to make the song sound better – all while staying in a pattern!

For older students, ratios can be used to compose a song. Give students ratio requirements – for every 4 red beats, use 1 blue beat – and allow them to use those ratios however they like! Give students the handout to plan out how they’ll use the ratios first, then build it in Song Maker.



Collaborative Compositions. Working in pairs, students should discuss a song they will create. This song can be content related (maybe from one of the examples above!), or something just for fun. They should discuss beats, tempo, etc. Then, have each partner fill out these pages individually – one planning the beat and one planning the melody. When they come back together, they will each put their work into one Song Maker song. Have students reflect on their work – did it sound how they planned? How could they change it?


When students are finished creating their music, they can easily share it by clicking “Save” and copying the link. The link can be emailed, bookmarked, or posted to Google Classroom. 

Manuel and I hope you can find ways to use Song Maker – and the other fun tools on Chrome Music Lab – to bring music into your classroom! Please share anything you or your students create with us on Twitter and Instagram – @sadieclorinda and @manuelherrera33 on both platforms.


A COLORFUL Start to the Year!


This year begins my third year out of the classroom. While I absolutely love my job and the work I get to do with teachers and students, I still miss those first days of school. Getting to know my new classes, and reconnecting with students I had in previous years, was always something I looked forward to.


I always tried to start the year with some fun activities to get the kids talking to one another and sharing things about themselves – while also sneaking in some content along the way. I taught middle school business classes, so basic graphic design was something I focused on a lot. I used design concepts in my beginning of the year activities to start introducing those things to students in fun ways. The kids always loved it, and the work they did in those first days ended up being used for the entire semester!

Now that I’ve left the classroom, I still use these activities in PD sessions with teachers and in classrooms when I’m co-teaching. I hope you find at least one of these can be used in your classroom, or that these activities spark new ideas in your mind!




Paint Chips. That’s it!

The lovely people at Lowe’s or Home Depot might look at you a little strange, but they’ll never tell you that you can’t take as many as you want!




Putting students in random groups at the beginning of the year helps them get to know one another, and lets you see how they work as a team. When planning group activities, why not let color guide the way you group the students!

  1. As students come into class, give each one a paint chip at random
  2. Display one of these slides – one for pairs, one for larger groups
  3. First, explain complementary colors and warm/cool colors. Then, have students group themselves based on the paint chip they received
  4. Have them regroup as many times as needed to complete your planned activityIMG_3640.JPG


You’ve likely heard of Book Spine Poetry. Well, why not do the same with color? Paint colors have such fun names, they’re perfect for this activity!

Use this slide as a facilitation tool if needed.

  1. Put students in groups of 3 to 4 (maybe the groups from Colorful Collaboration!)
  2. Give each group a stack of paint chips
  3. Give students time to arrange the titles into a short poem
  4. For fun, have them trade one of their paint chips with another group and incorporate it into their poem


This one is fun, easy, and quick! Paint colors have really fun, creative names. This activity gets students thinking about how words can conjure up certain images in your mind.

  1. As students come into class, give each one a paint chip at random. Alternately, if doing this later in class, just hand out the paint chips
  2. Make sure to tell students to keep their colors and color names to themselves!!
  3. As students to volunteer to read the name of their paint color
  4. Allow other students to guess what color they think that might be

I also used this activity to pair students. As students would guess the color based on the name, I would ask “Who thinks they have a color that is complementary to that?” and students would get into pairs or groups based on that.


This activity is great for team building and allowing students to share how they feel in a fun way, but can also be used throughout the year with content!

  1. Get students into groups of 3 to 4
  2. Give each group a stack of paint chips – with or without the names (I always keep a stack with the names cut off)
  3. Give students a prompt –

    • How are you feeling about the first day of middle school?
    • How would you describe our school?
    • How would you describe [character name] during [specific book chapter]?
    • The water cycle
  4. Ask groups to build a color palette that describes the prompt
    • If you left the names on, they will likely use the color names to build their palette. This is a great way to do this activity the first few times
    • If you removed the names, students should choose their colors and give them names that are representative of their topic

This is one of my favorites. I’d use it so often, all I’d have to do is say “Collaborative palettes on maintaining a budget. Three colors, name them all and name your palette. Go.” and they would know exactly what to do!


My personal favorite. In this activity, we ask students, individually or in a group, to create their own custom color and give it a name. It allows them to share something fun about themselves, but also teaches them how to use the color tools in Google and find the HEX code. I shared these templates with my students through Google Classroom early in the year, and had endless color ideas for the entire semester!

Individual Activity

  1. Share this Google Drawing with your students
  2. Give them time to create their own color from the Custom palette that represents them
  3. Encourage them to give it a name that doesn’t have “blue” or “purple” in it
    • Example: Soccer Turf or Copper Clarinet
  4. When done, you can download each Drawing as an image and compile them into one document that the class can pull from throughout the year!

Group Activity

I usually did this as a group after teaching basic color theory, but it really can be done any time.

  1. Share this document with students – one student per group should open it
    (Tip: Have them change the zoom in Drawing to 50%)
  2. Give groups time to create their own color palette – warm colors, cool colors, complementary, etc.
  3. Encourage them to give the colors creative names
  4. When done, you can download each Drawing as an image and have palettes that the class can pull from throughout the year!

While these activities are great for the beginning of the year, they can be modified and used throughout the year in all content areas!

As you use these in the classroom, please share pictures of how it goes and how you put your unique spin on things! Tag me in your tweets so I can see them, and use the #DesignEDU hashtag!


Creative Coding

Creative Coding

In a first grade class one day, I asked a few students “Do you like coding?”
They had no idea what I was talking about.

What they did tell me: “I made this bracelet out of rubberbands and beads.” 

The current nationwide conversation around STEM focuses very heavily on coding, programming, and engineering. Which is great, if you are interested in those things.

What about our kids who just aren’t interested in coding? 

Girls in STEM, Girls Who Code, CSforAll – a few of the many movements and hashtags that are trying to get our kids interested in STEM. Why are they so focused on changing our students’ interests, rather than focusing on their current interests?

And for some reason, the STEM movement has started sending this message that’s it’s somehow a bad thing to be a girly-girl. An entire group of us are being left out of the STEM conversation.

That’s a problem.

I started thinking “How can I take these little creators, and use their current interests to get them into computational thinking, coding, STEM, etc?”

I decided to create an activity for these little learners that focuses on patterns and codes.


Using different colored beads, students could “code their name” using the key, or create their own pattern with a few colors and repeat it over and over.

The intro to this activity was quick – we talked about patterns and secret codes for a few minutes, then they were off on their own!


I loved seeing their creativity in creating their own unique patterns. One friend asked if he could have two patterns on the same necklace. He decided to use a black bead to separate the two patterns.


The students who decided to code their names were excited to take the necklaces home and have their parents “decode” them.

I included a little card that I threaded onto their necklaces that explained the activity, and gave them some “unplugged coding” ideas to try at home.

Click here to view and print my Coding Bracelets pages.

I loved this activity, and will be doing it again in other kindergarten and first grade classrooms. Taking the students’ current interests – making jewelry – and bringing in some basic computation thinking skills worked well. They started using “coding” language and will have that in their toolbox when “real” coding and programming is presented to them as they get older.

let’s talk about COLOR

let’s talk about COLOR

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For my first real post on my site, it makes sense to start with something I love: color. 

I’ve presented on Design, both in process and design elements, at several conferences. As a business teacher, design was something I always considered, and taught my students. As I create instructional materials and digital content, I design with my audience in mind. Keep Reading!