Teaching Meter Through Manipulatives

Unifix cubes and toothpicks are a great way to show meter.


Meter is one of those concepts that is difficult to teach because it is abstract and must be felt. You can give your students lots of experience with meter, and they can be pros at finding the steady beat, but if they don’t understand the organization of beats into groups, they just won’t get it.

I’ve been teaching meter using Quaver Music. It’s brilliant how Quaver presents it: beats can be strong or weak, and they are arranged into groups. Meter is how the beats are grouped. Unifix cubes (also called snap cubes) make a great way of taking this abstract concept and making it concrete and tactile for kids.

First, the kids grabbed a handful of cubes and found a place on the floor.
Second, I played a song with an easily identifiable meter. The students had to pat the steady beat, then switch to patting only the strong beats and clapping the weak beats, then count how many beats were in a group (starting with “one” when they patted their legs). This is how they arrived at the number of beats in a group.
Third, the students arranged their cubes in a line, with spaces between each group of beats.


Students create beat groups to show the meter of a piece

Some students even chose two different colors; one color for the strong beats and one color for the weak beats. (Differentiation! Boom!)
Fourth, students placed toothpicks vertically between the beat groups to represent bar lines.
Finally, as the music continued to play, students tapped the cubes with their fingertips in time with the beat. This allowed them to check their answers.


This boy is tapping his cubes in time with the music to check his answers.

The whole process was great for assessment because I could immediately see who was struggling AND what they were struggling with. It kept the class occupied so I could give individual attention to the students who needed it.

And the best part…? The whole activity took only ten minues. TEN MINUTES! Visual, tactile, kinesthetic, and aural learning, authentic music learning, and formative (and summative if you want) assessment, all in ten minutes. Pull this one out the next time you’re being observed. You’re welcome. 😉

What do you think? Have you tried this before? Would you like to try it? How do you see it going over with your students?

Thanks for reading!
-Mallory 🙂


How to Create a “Strong” Password

Lately, many of us have noticed prompts for creating “strong” passwords. As if passwords have muscles. Some of us are even required to change our passwords as frequently as every month!

How’s a busy, cluttered mind supposed to keep it all straight?!?

Easy! Turn your password into a sentence.

This neat little idea is something I learned from my husband, which he learned from his previous job, where he was required to change his password every 30 days…and oh yeah, it had to be “strong.”

First, why would a password need to be strong, anyway? It’s not like they have little password muscles that they flex at their monthly password meetings to see who is the strongest. No, frustrating as it may be, it’s actually to protect your security. There are some pretty advanced computers out there that can randomly string together characters to try to hack into your account (email, banking, cloud drive, etc.). If your password ONLY uses lower-case letters, and it is six letters long, there are approximately 300 million possible combinations of letters. A password-cracking computer could try all 300 million of those combinations in less than one second. Boom. Hacked.

*Math geek warning* So let’s say you add capitals to the mix, you’re now up to 52 possible characters, and let’s say you go up to an eight-character password. That increases your number of possible password combinations to 53 trillion. That password-cracking computer would now take about eight hours to crack your code. Still…boom. hacked.

But adding numbers and special characters to the mix? And increasing the length of your password to 10 characters? Now you’re on to something. It would take a super computer…get this…TEN YEARS to randomly guess your password. (Assuming it doesn’t randomly guess it on the first try! Hah!) Go up to 12 digits and that super computer would have to stick around for 7 MILLION YEARS to randomly guess your password. Starting to see the light?

But yes, it’s frustrating to create a password that’s long and complex. And it’s difficult to remember it. You’re just going to end up writing it down on paper, which makes it that much less secure. So here’s how you remember it: Make it a sentence.

For example: the sentence “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” could be turned into this password: “Tqbfj0tld!” Each character in the password stands for a word from the sentence. The first letter is capitalized, adding to your security, and the sentence ends with an exclamation point, bringing in those special characters IT guys love to hold over your head on password-change days.

Here are some more examples of strong passwords based on sentences. *PLEASE DO NOT use any of these as your actual password. You will anger the password gods.

Ig8ho$en:) = “I get eight hours of sleep every night (smiley face)” — The dollar sign is used to represent the word starting with “S” in the sentence. The smiley face is the self-satisfaction you should feel if you are actually getting eight hours every night.

M1cbi0J1* = “My first child’s birthday is on January 1st (asterisk)”–Family names and dates are great, as long as you don’t make them too obvious (“Mike6/6/09” would be too obvious and the supercomputers would figure me out right away). If you can’t think of a way to include a special character, add an asterisk to the end of your password.

Iw!wak0C = “I wish I were a knight of Camelot”–An exclamation point is substituted for the letter “I” and a zero is substituted for the letter “O”. Use special characters and numbers to stand for words in your sentence.

Now it’s your turn. Take some time to think of 8-12-word sentences, then reflect on how you could use letters, numbers, and special characters to represent those words in a password. Write down your ideas, and by all means, share them with your partner! I can’t imagine the look on my spouse’s face if he were to read all of these crazy passwords I’ve invented…Hah! (By the way, writing down a password is still way more secure than having a weak password. You’re 1,000,000,000x less likely to get hacked from someone breaking into your home or office and randomly finding your password post-it than you are from a supercomputer running your numbers [statistic totally made up, but it sounds legit, right?].)

Thanks for reading! I hope your new strong passwords give the supercomputers the run-around. If you’ve found this helpful, please share! ❤

Sources/For more reading:



Crayon Jars

How to create your own crayon jars for easy and quick classroom coloring.


Step 1: Drink coffee.
This one is easy. 😉

Step 2: Discard lids and wash bottles.
They are dishwasher safe.

Step 3: Remove labels.
Peel the labels off. There will be a residue from the adhesive. Remove it by soaking in Goo Gone and wiping with a soft cloth. Wash again to remove Goo Gone.

Step 4: Fill with crayons.
Each bottle can hold 24 full size crayons. I got the crayon boxes for $1 each at Office Max.

Step 5: Decorate cartons.
I picked up some cute wrapping paper at Staples. Wrap the boxes just like you would with a gift.

Voila! Cute crayon holders that are easy to collect and distribute and easy for students to use!

Leading up to a Strong Finish!

It’s time to think about how we want to end the year.


This is always the time of year where I start to get nervous. I think about all the things I have yet to accomplish with my students and how few times I get to see them between now and June.

It’s time for me to sit down with my Scope and Sequence and figure out what goals are essential for the remaining months of the school year, which ones are desirable, and which ones are okay to miss. There are typically some rhythmic values and pitches that I haven’t yet covered with certain grade levels, so I have to be pretty strict on myself to get them in my lesson plan.

Luckily, there are some easy ways to incorporate music theory into games and fun lessons. You can hit your curricular goals while still having fun teaching. And, if you support one of the awesome teacher-authors on TpT, you can save time doing it, too!

Here are some products I’m looking forward to using this spring:


ABE3        ABATS3

A, B, Everywhere! …and… A, B, and Then Some!

These are worksheets I designed for my beginning recorder players. I introduce recorder in the spring of 3rd grade. I realized that many kids don’t understand the concept of note placement on the staff (and I promise, I taught it to them!). These worksheets are a great tool for teaching the concept as well as an excellent assessment tool for me. The color-coding allows me to instantly see who doesn’t understand the concept…and what they don’t understand about it. It has saved me so much time by being able to directly address each student’s individual misunderstandings.


Poke Sheets: Music Symbols

The “Poke Sheet” concept struck me one day as I was watching a class of 4th graders finish a pencil-and-paper assessment. Two students had flipped over their papers and were poking holes in the back. I was a little annoyed, but then I thought…why not let them do that on purpose?!? How cool would I be?!! (They did love it but I don’t know if it earned me any extra street cred. 😉

I currently have three different Poke Sheets. The music symbol one will be perfect for my 2nd graders, who have to demonstrate knowledge of music symbols by the spring.



This Jeopardy-style game has kids about peeing themselves with excitement when they realize they get to be on “Team Steve” or “Team Creeper” (among about ten other cool options for team names). Sara Bibee, the creator, even went so far as to create an instructional video so you don’t get stuck in front of the class, not knowing what to do. (See it here.) Bonus for teachers: You don’t have to know anything about Minecraft to be able to play the game with your students. My 3rd graders are going to love this addition to our recorder unit!

What resources do you love or want to share?

Mrs. Martin’s Music Room is now on Bloglovin’!

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Exciting news: You can now follow Mrs. Martin’s Music Room on Bloglovin’!

Haven’t tried Bloglovin’ yet? Check it out by clicking the link above!

What I love about Bloglovin’

  • Daily emails of new blog posts from people I follow
  • Recommendations of new blogs to follow based on my interests
  • No logging in required (cuz the daily email) 😉
  • If I don’t have time, I can just delete it!

What could be improved about Bloglovin’

  • Blogs have to be verified and claimed…so not every blog is on there
  • Daily emails can get a little long, so set up your preferences carefully

Long story short, my blog has now been claimed and verified. I hope to see you in your email inbox!

Follower Freebie

Download these free worksheets as a thanks for being a loyal follower. (Link at bottom of post)



Today’s post is in celebration of reaching 100 followers on my Facebook page. (Check out my Facebook page over on the right. ——>)

To celebrate and to thank my followers, I want to offer a “forever freebie”–a brand-new product that will remain free for the rest of time. Or until the collapse of the internet and human society.

Doomsday aside, I hope you enjoy these worksheets. I developed them after a pre-test revealed that two to three students in each 5th grade class knew ALL of the line and space notes on both treble and bass staves. I didn’t want to waste those students’ time by having them sit through “Every Good Boy Does Fine,” so I developed an individual packet for them to learn the C Clef.


The first page is just for them to read. It teaches them what the C Clef looks like, what it indicates, and how to read the notes on the staff when it is located around the middle line as the alto clef.



The second page contains a review of the alto clef position, some hints on some of the letter names, and three lines of notes to name.

After students are done with the worksheet, I check their answers. If they have gotten 100% correct, I let them play the alto clef notes on “Staff Wars” on the iPad for the remainder of class.

Click the link below to download the full pdf version of both worksheets.


About Mrs. Martin

Hello! Glad to meet you. Seeing as you already know my name, I guess I don’t have to introduce myself.

But seeing as that’s all you know about me, let me paint you a little picture of who I am and what you can expect to find here.

My first name is Mallory. I’ve been teaching music for nine years. As a teacher, I am energetic, joyful, friendly, and creative. I say what I mean and I do what I say I’m going to do. Kids don’t “get away with stuff” in my classroom because they are having too much fun doing the lesson and either (1) don’t want to be naughty or (2) don’t have time to be naughty.

My ideas help teachers use technology. My ideas help students learn better. My ideas use clever new ways to do old, proven things. My ideas are steeped in thought for a very long time, and only come out when they’re good and ready to be shared.

I have a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music education. I am certified to teach K-12 vocal and general music. My master’s degree concentration was choral conducting, and I took Kodaly Level 1 as an elective during my final summer of coursework. I’d like to finish the Kodaly levels and take Orff and Conversational Solfege, too. That will take some time!

I have two young sons. My first was born in August 2011 and my second was born in September 2013. Being a teacher has made me a more effective parent and being a parent has made me a more understanding teacher. My husband is an engineer who comes up with great bulletin board captions!

My personal experiences (being a very busy mom!) have helped me be a more efficient teacher. I don’t have 80 hours a week to perfect my curriculum, so I have to be as efficient as possible in 45 hours per week. And, my professional experience has helped me find my teaching self. I’m no longer a blind follower of the most recent thing I’ve read. I have taken the best of everything I know and decided upon the route that is right for me and my students. I want my students to become musically literate and capable in the real world…That means not only teaching them how to read and perform folk and classical music but also how to understand, interpret, accept, and perform music that they will encounter in their lives, whether that be pop or some other genre.

I believe that the reason we teach is to make a difference in a life. To help a child develop into a well-rounded person. And to help students discover who they want to be.

Thanks for stopping by Mrs. Martin’s Music Room. I hope you find some great ideas!