Sticky Situation — Using Tape in the Music Classroom
I love learning and sharing tiny little tricks to make life in the classroom easier. One of my favorite things to do when I walk into a friend’s music room is start asking “Where did you get that?” “How are you hanging that?” “What brand of (whatever) is that?” I love learning the little details and figuring out how to implement helpful changes in my own classroom.
So, I’ve dedicated this whole blog post to tape. I will fully acknowledge how nerdy that sounds, and for the record I am an admitted office supplies geek. Don’t let me turn that shopping cart down the office supply aisle unless you want to leave the store with 18 multi-colored sharpies, a new stack of post-it notes, and a set of envelopes that “I know exactly what to do with.” I’m that person…
All that said I really do think that there are so many different things to do with tape and so many ways to utilize your resources in creative ways. I hope that this post gives you some ideas about cheap ways to organize, manage, and change your practice. PLEASE leave comments if you have further ideas. As I said above, I love learning the little tidbits that help to make life easier and I gain so much from talking with friends. Your comments will help me to find new ways to do things and will help others who read through the comments too!
Masking Tape – Your Best Friend
Let me start with masking tape. This stuff is great because it’s cheap, comes in lots of fun colors, is pretty powerful, and generally doesn’t leave a sticky residue. I use masking tape exclusively for hanging posters on the wall. Though it takes quite a bit of tape to keep a poster up on the wall, masking tape is cheap and easy so I don’t mind. I never use scotch tape to hang things on walls or doors because it gets brittle, doesn’t peel well, and is a pain to try and take down. In my school, masking tape sticks to drywall and painted cinderblocks as well as the wood of the doors. My custodians have never mentioned a problem with it, even when they saw me trying to put it on my floors (don’t, it’s terrible for that… more on floor tape later :D).
But masking tape is good for more than just hanging things, I love using it to organize my classroom. Masking tape comes in several different widths and it’s great to use for color-coding and also for labels (stick it on stuff and write on it with a Sharpie). I use masking tape on all my Orff instruments to help students see a difference and keep like instruments together. All of my metallophones have a strip of red masking tape, the xylos have a strip of yellow, and the glockenspiels have a strip of blue. As much as I try to remind kids and explain the types of the instruments so that they can categorize them on their own it doesn’t always stay in their memory.
Especially with a high population of English Language Learners (ELL) it is helpful to give any visual cue that you can. I put a little tape on the instrument stand and a little strip on each instrument right under the keyboard/bars to keep everything colored and labeled. This has been such a blessing and has saved me a ton of time for reinforcement. I can say “Metallophones, the red instruments, can line up.” The more I can use this little trick to reinforce the content the better! It’s hard for them to understand the difference between glockenspiels and metallophones sometimes and the colorful identifier is a big help!
Painter’s Tape – When You’re Feeling Blue
Painter’s tape is the blue stuff you can find in any hardware store and feels a lot like masking tape. It’s pretty cheap and leaves little to no residue when being peeled up. I’ve actually seen my custodians put this on the floor (it doesn’t last long there, it’s not meant for the floor, but I know that they don’t mind if it ends up on the floor). I know that now they have “frog tape” or something like that which mimics painter’s tape and comes in a green color. I’ve never used it before but I feel like it has the same properties as masking. I’ll consult my mom, the art teacher/tape expert, and get back to you on that.
(Edit: My dad the farmer/contractor/painter extraordinaire says this about the green “frog tape”: “It’s supposed to be vastly superior to painter’s tape. It’s is a little better but not magic like they show on the container. Mostly it doesn’t damage the surface it’s stuck to. And if that surface isn’t perfectly smooth a little paint might sneak under the tape. It’s better than the blue stuff….” The real scoop. Thanks dad!)
I use this dark blue “painter’s” tape any time I have to put something on the whiteboard. Earlier this year I pulled out several large pieces of tape and made a makeshift staff on my whiteboard so that my KDG and 1st graders could move magnets up and down to mimic notes on a staff. The painter’s tape comes right up when I’m done with it and makes no trouble on the whiteboard. It’s GREAT for use on whiteboards!
Floor Tape – No Stress Solution
I keep mentioning “I’ve seen my custodians put this on the floor” or “Custodians don’t mind if this goes on the floor” because your custodian has a LOT to say about how and where you use tape. They are the gate-keepers when it comes to what you can and cannot use in your classroom and they CAN be your best advocate if you are careful. You want them on your side. Super early on in my career I learned to consult my custodians before I did something to 1) get their advice on what works best (they really are the czars of your building, they know what works and what doesn’t!) and 2) get their permission. The more you can consult them, the more they will feel involved and be willing to help you if you need it.
All that said, tape on the floor can be a contentious subject in many buildings. Some tapes leave residue on the floor and then dirt sticks to that and it becomes the world’s biggest mess to clean. You want to make your custodian’s life easier, not more difficult so you don’t want to put down tape (no matter how convenient it might be for you) if it’s going to make their life hell later. So far I’ve learned from them that duct tape and packing tape on the floor are NOT good. They don’t mind masking tape, floor tape, or painter’s tape. Mostly they hate duct tape. It’s the worst offender and always leaves a residue.
So, here’s the best option for your floors: “Floor tape.” I have it in about 8 colors and I love it! You can get it in any Physical Education catalog and many general education catalogs. I stole the catalog from my P.E. teacher and got her advice on what worked the best in the gym. The great thing about this is that it really is meant for the floors, doesn’t leave a residue, comes in a ton of colors, and is easy to apply. I use it on my carpet but I know that you could also use it on tile or brick. I will say that while it does stick on MY carpet, I have to tap it down/step on it every once in a while to keep it in place. It will come up at the end but is usually fine in the middle. There’s also the risk of “Picky Fingers McGee” in every kindergarten class who will try and pull it up. The tape stays down on its own but if “Picky Fingers” gets near it you have to watch out. Luckily it’s easy to replace. I’ve had some of this tape on my floor since the beginning of the year and it is still doing great.
I use floor tape to mark out the “line leader squares” for my KDG and 1st grades and to put up boundaries. There’s a line of black tape on the floor near my front door to show the line leader where to start the line and where not to cross.
Recently I used some colorful floor tape to color code my tubano drums. The drums come in three sizes (10″, 12″, and 14″) and again, it helps my kids to mark out a clear difference. As with the glockenspiels and metallophones, it’s sometimes hard to see a difference between these very similar instruments. The colorful tape helps students and ME easily and quickly see the different sizes. This was especially helpful for me as I started to set up for my world drumming unit. I was able to look at the tape on the drum and easily put tubanos exactly where I wanted them (alternating sizes had never been so easy!).
Duct Tape – The Greatest Offender
Duct tape is the greatest offender in the classroom setting, so I try and use it sparingly. It is very strong and powerful tape, but it also leaves a sticky residue anywhere it goes. Basically, don’t put down duct tape anywhere where you don’t want it to stay permanently. Your custodians will thank you later and honestly, YOU will thank you later.So, what do I use duct tape for? I recently pulled out my colorful duct tape and used it to label the edges of some white boards. I had these ancient student white boards that were peeling and dying and desperately needed replaced. I was lucky enough to get a DonorsChoose project funded for new white board supplies. When the new whiteboards came in I didn’t want to throw the old ones out but also didn’t know what to do with them. I decided to keep the old white boards and use them as a hard surface any time that kids needed to use pencil and paper to write out a worksheet or reflection paper. A pencil and paper on a student white board can mean death for the whiteboard itself (the pencil tip can easily mar the white board surface) so knowing that I had some “backup” boards to use exclusively for hard surfaces was a great idea.
The first time I tried using the “old” white boards for a writing surface, however, the kids just grabbed boards and started their assignment. They didn’t know which ones were new and which ones were old. They couldn’t tell. So, out came the handy purple duct tape. I cut each strip of tape down the middle and folded it around the edges of the boards so that they made a sort of border. Now I can say “Go grab a pencil, paper, and a purple white board” and they’ve totally got it.
Packing Tape – “Clear”ly the best
Packing tape is a winner! I use packing tape all the time to keep difficult posters up on the wall and to keep labels in place. If you buy the cheap-o knock off brand you’ll get a thin and cheap tape that doesn’t do much sticking or holding. Knock off packing tape is the sort of stuff where you have to put four layers of it on to make sure that that box you’re sending back to Amazon actually stays shut. Spend the money and buy the 3m or Scotch brand stuff. It’s worth it. The Target brand (Up and Up) is okay, but anything less than that is a crap shoot. (Yet again, for the record, I know that I’m saying supremely nerdy things about office supplies….).
I used packing tape to keep some labels on one of my shelving units. This particular shelf was an instrument shelf and boxes and buckets of shakers and scrapers were going to constantly be moved over these labels. I needed something to keep the labels on the shelf so that they didn’t get scuffed or pulled off any time we got our our instruments. The packing tape worked great to keep the labels on the shelf, but when I tried to pull it up to replace one of the labels the tape did bring up some of the paint. So be careful when you use strong packing tape on painted surfaces. I will admit that these bookcases are old and not the best quality. It might be more the bookcase/paint than the tape.
Sidebar about lamination and tape: There are two kinds of laminator, the cold laminator and the hot laminator. At my school and most supply stores like Mardel or Lakeshore Learning they use a hot laminator. Things that are hot laminated are easy to cut, stick up, and use again and again. Things that are cold laminated almost exclusively need to be stapled or tacked up. They just don’t stick. My mom (the art teacher) used every type of adhesive she could find to get some posters up on the wall but they kept falling down. Her school has a cold and hot laminator… don’t get me started on my jealousy here. She found that the only thing that kept up her cold-laminated posters was the serious 3m packing tape. Packing tape is great for keeping posters up on walls or at least works really well on my cinderblock and drywall walls.
Oh, and hey, you can get packing tape in fun patterns and colors now. Check out the awesome red chevron stuff that a friend got me! Love it!
3m Tape – The Muscle
I use 3m tape all over and have had great results. When you take it down you sometimes have to be careful. If it’s been up on the wall for a long time it might come apart when you try and peel it off. Just a caution.
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