What could I become? I’m just a little seed…
Last spring, I started singing a brand new song about seeds on the way to a school where I work. I arrived and wrote the whole thing down in the parking lot. Yep, it’s one of those “organic” tunes that just happens before you know it! The song’s refrain is: “I’ve got potential! I’m a little seed.” The refrain repeats, encouraging participants to sing it back, call-and-response style. Click Here to view lyrics.
Seeds, of course, are not the only things with potential. This song invites discussion with children about the meaning of “potential,” as well as the life cycle and the characteristics all living things share. You can also encourage children to rewrite the song by adding their favorite flowers, plants and trees.
Here are some others:
Growing Sound's Seeds of Hope;
MMMKids From A Seed Into A Tree;
Kiboomu's The Gardner Plants A Seed;
Bobby Susser's The Seeds In The Spring Are Going To Grow (With A Little Help);
Miss Jenny's Let Your Garden Grow;
Music with Mar.'s Seed To a Flower
Marla Lewis' I Love to Talk to Plants.
These days, kids are far more sophisticated and hip to pop culture than we were at their age. I discovered this first hand when I started volunteering in my sons' classrooms as a music teacher, and I soon realized that traditional kids' music turned off even the kindergarteners. It was fine as long as I was doing fun 'extra' music - there's plenty of upbeat pop music with clean lyrics and not to much 'mushy stuff.' But teachers wanted more than fun, they wanted the music time to reinforce curriculum.
My older son's 4th grade teacher came to me with a musical she'd found online about the California gold rush, and she asked if I could use my time more efficiently by teaching those songs - which included historic details but sounded like something from Romper Room (or "Barney," for those of you too young to remember Romper Room). As it was, by 4th grade these kids could have made eye-rolling into an Olympic event, and I realized there was no way I would survive trying to teach them the equivalent of "I love you, you love me."
Before I had kids, I was a full-time music director and had written a number of comedy songs and musicals for adults, so I decided to try my hand at writing something that would satisfy the teachers and yet appeal to the kids. I wrote a rock musical about California history and the kids actually got excited about singing the songs! (Granted, that was less about my writing and more a result of the screaming electric guitar accompaniment, but hey, when you're trying to appeal to jaded nine-year-olds, you do what you can!)
While you may not find fun-yet-educational-music on the Billboard Top 40, fortunately Songs For Teaching is a great resource, connecting teachers with music that will make them AND their students happy. And if those songs can sneak in some great information, all the better - think of it as the musical equivalent of hiding pureed spinach in spaghetti sauce!
Here are a couple of examples -
Lauren Mayer draws on her experience as a children's musical composer, a school music teacher and a mom to create award-winning educational music for a variety of subjects. She is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Yale University, where she studied composition, conducting, and music theory, and she has taught school music, choir, and theatre for grades K-12.
During studies for my master’s degree at Lesley University, I had an opportunity to take a class on early literacy learning with Professor Jean Ciborowsky Fahey. Jean works closely with a group called Reach Out and Read, a non-profit organization that partners with pediatricians’ offices to encourage reading-related activities for very young children.
Jean enthusiastically encourages parents and early childhood teachers to play literacy games regularly – daily if possible – with their young children and students. You can play these games anywhere – the breakfast table, on the way to school, the supermarket line or the playground line. One game involves taking apart compound words. For instance, children might be asked:
Say “something.” Say it again without the “thing.” Some.
Say “pinwheel.” Say it again without the “pin.” Wheel.
Say “motorcycle.” Say it again without the “cycle.” Motor.
Games can also help children learn to separate out the onset and rime; that is, the initial consonant sound of the word (onset) and the remaining vowel and consonant sounds (rime). The child could be asked:
Say run. Say it again without the ‘r.’
Say dog. Say it again without the ‘d.’
Say find. Say it again without the ‘f.’
By learning to separate the starting sound from those that follow, the child begins to understand the families of words that have the same ending sounds. Reading the words in the families becomes that much easier, as cat, fat, mat, bat, rat and sat all have the same end letters, just different beginnings. I’ve written a Word Families song – click the link and you can check it out on my Songs for Rhyming and Reading at Songs for Teaching.
What follows is silly song that invites children to play with beginning and ending sounds. Make a flash card for each of the words, and separate the beginning sound from the rest of the word. Have different letters available to form the nonsense words. Ask a children to pick out the correct letter to begin the word.
My Dog Lost the ‘B’ from Her Bark Tune: “If You’re Happy and You Know It”
By Liz Buchanan
Oh my dog lost the B from her bark (repeat)
My dog lost the B from her bark bark bark
Now all she can say is “Ark!”
Until she found a “G” and went “Gark”
Oh, then she found an “S” and went “Sark”
Oh, what she really needs is a B you see
Please find a B for me.
Oh my cow lost the M from her moo …
Now all she can say is “oo”
My turkey lost the G from her gobble
Now all she can say is “obble”
My Frog lost the R from his ribbet
Now all he can say is “ibbet.”
In planning lessons for the months of January and February, teachers often think of Dr. Martin Luther King and the U.S. Presidents. With all the necessary standards in different subject areas needing to be covered, what can a teacher do to make sure they recognize these great individuals in American history? As a 23-year veteran teacher, I found that singing about them can help the students learn valuable information. To make sure that happened, I created my own songs to honor these men: Dr. Martin Luther King and We Salute the Presidents.
I wanted children to feel part of history, so for example, words expressed by Dr. Martin Luther King in his “I Have a Dream” speech are right in the song: people’s “hands joined” all around, and his repeated passionate plea to “Let freedom ring…” became “Freedom song, for all people it does ring.” In the “We Salute the Presidents” song, the children learn that George Washington was the first President and helped us win the Revolution. Abraham Lincoln was our sixteenth President and kept our country united through the Civil War. My hope was that this melodic means to learning would not only be fact-filled, but would make the whole learning process easy, memorable, and fun for the students.
These songs are just two of twelve songs on one of my CDs called Learning About Patriotic Holidays and Symbols by Song, designed so that a teacher could honor and recognize all our important national holidays and patriotic symbols throughout the year with this novel approach. To reinforce the students’ learning, I added an accompanying workbook with enlarged song sheets, activity pages, scored melodies, line drawings for coloring, and instrumental song tracks that could be used for performance purposes.
In the shrinking teaching day that seems to be increasing every year, it is so important as educators that we not neglect our American heritage. We can (and must) carve out a few minutes of the school day and participate in patriotic rituals (like singing) to show our great love and pride for the United States of America, remembering our many blessings.
Reading is magical. I recently observed a young mom reading a book with her five year old. It was a beautiful, tender moment as her child sounded out a few of the words. The mother swelled with pride, misty-eyed knowing that her child received one of life's greatest gifts – the ability to read.
So, how do I help my child achieve this great milestone? There are so many things a parent can do to further this skill – engage in conversation, create a language rich environment, read aloud to your child, and MUSIC! Yes! Music.
In 1997, Congress commissioned the National Reading Panel, a group of fourteen experts, to review the existing research on reading instruction. Based on their analysis of thousands of studies, the panel determined that an effective approach to teaching beginning reading includes instruction in five areas (also known as the National Reading Panel’s Big Five). Multiple research (for you scholars, see bibliography below) shows that music can enhance each of these areas.
1. Phonemic Awareness - the ability to notice, think about, and work with the individual sounds in words. Several recent studies show increase phonemic & phonological awareness when teachers use music in the classroom. Because songs manipulate sounds especially through lyrics and rhyme, there is a direct connection to literacy. Check out the song Tell Me All The Sounds, by Liz Buchanan. Also see Jack Hartmann's Let’s Make Words.The classic favorite Apples and Bananas is another fun one for building phonemic awareness! Click here our list of songs that build Phonemic Awareness!
2. Alphabetic Principle – the idea that letters and letter patterns represent the sounds of spoken language. How did you learn your letters? Most learn The Alphabet Song to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.We first learn the letters, next we learn the sounds, then we begin to blend them together. Here are some songs to help learning letters and letter sounds: Rappin the ABC’s and Who Knows the Alphabet Sounds. Check out Alphabet Boogie by Kiboomu, Jack Hartmann's Meet the Letters of the Alphabetor The Alphabet Song by Marla Lewis. Click here our list of songs about the alphabet and phonics!
3. Fluency - the ability to read text quickly, accurately, and with proper expression. – The innate rhythm and tambour of music can be directly connected to the rhythm and prosody of reading fluency. Songs with a strong rhythmic beat are great, also use songs that encourage movement, clapping or playing rhythm instruments. Check out Tapping, Shaking Music Making by Rachel Rambach, I Clap, I Shout from the new Dandelion CD by Growing Sound. Try Gotta Get the Beat from Pam Donkin, or Liz Buchanan's Animal Hand-Clap Rap. Click here our list of Action & Movement Songs!
4. Vocabulary – the ability to recognize and understand words in print and in speech. Enhancing vocabulary through music is a proven strategy. Lyrics matter, and selecting songs with educational value make a difference in the development of academic vocabulary. So, playing that Beyonce song on the radio may not build the vocabulary you want for your child. Songs for Teaching has songs for nearly every subject. Check out our front page for suggestions in almost any category. Bilingual Music is great for building vocabulary for English Language Learners. Check out the songs on Francisco Herrera's Canta y Juega. Build vocabulary in English and Mandarin with Early Mandarin Adventures! Click here to see songs for building English vocabulary!
5. Comprehension - the ability to understand what has been read or heard. – Helping children with metacognition (thinking about thinking), making connections with text, visualization and synthesizing are all key comprehension strategies. Engaging the learner is key to comprehension. Music’s ability to engage learners is powerful. Secondly, engaging in dialogue about songs can help facilitate comprehension skills. Silly songs can be a fun way of engaging and talking about the lyrics can build comprehension skills. Try A Rhino Likes Popcorn by Jason Anderson; or Mrs. Music's collection Best Silly Songs Ever Song written specifically for comprehension can also build skills such as Context Clues by Matilda Gilbert or Reading Strategy Songs by Miles & Tanny McGregor (fyi -- Tanny McGregor is one of our sources in the Bibliography below)! Songs about books can be a good tool. Check out Cool Books by Recess! or Storybook Friends by Intelli-Tunes
In Closing, music can be a fun way to nurture literacy! Teachers, play music in the classroom or during transitions, integrate strategic songs into your lesson plans to yield fantastic results, and value the music teacher in your school -- they are helping your students! Parents, sing songs with your child, clap and dance along, recite nursery rhymes, or make a drum set out of your kitchen pots and pans. Playing children’s music in the car or at home is fun AND educational for your child.
You can find great educational music at www.SongsforTeaching.com. Stream educational music with our new App -- Get over 500 FREE songs on the Songs for Teaching Radio Android APP (Don’t worry Apple users, it is coming soon to the IOS Market). Also coming soon is our new Halloween Songs App!
Degé, F., & Schwarzer, G. (2011, June 20). The Effect of a Music Program on Phonological Awareness in Preschoolers.National Center for Biotechnology Information. Retrieved September 16, 2014, from http://journal.frontiersin.org/Journal/10.3389/fpsyg.2011.00124/full
Gromko, J. (2005). The Effect of Music Instruction on Phonemic Awareness in Beginning Readers. Retrieved September 15, 2014, from http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/3598679?uid=3739552&uid=2&uid=4&ui...
Hansen, D., Bernstorf, E. D., & Stuber, G. M. (2004). The Music and Literacy Connection. Reston, Va.: MENC.
Li, X., & Brand, M. (2009). Effectiveness of Music on Vocabulary Acquisition, Language Usage, and Meaning for Mainland Chinese ESL Learners.krpb.pbworks. Retrieved September 15, 2014, from http://krpb.pbworks.com/f/music-esl.pdf.
McGregor, Tanny. (2014, April). Music and Literacy Strategies Using Comprehension Connections. General Music Today, Vol. 27, No. 3, 6-9.
"National Reading Panel." National Reading Panel. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Sept. 2014.
Peterson, E. (2012, July 17). Education Closet – Integrating Music and Literacy. Retrieved from http://educationcloset.com/2012/07/17/integrating-music-and-literacy/
Standley, Jayne M. (2008, Nov.). Does Music Instruction Help Children Learn to Read? Evidence of a Mega-Analysis. Applications of Research in Music Education, Vol. 27, No. 1, 17-32
Tarbert, K. (2012). Learning Literacy through Music. Oneota Reading Journal. Retrieved September 16, 2014, from http://oneotareadingjournal.com/2012/learning-literacy-through-music/
Due to several requests, we are republishing this blog post, originally published in March 2014.
Most teachers agree that using music can enhance learning. Yet, many teachers get stuck, not knowing what to play or how to use music to the fullest. Here are 10 ideas you can implement today in your classroom!
1. Transitions – music is a great tool when switching subjects of changing directions for your students. It has a way of resetting the stage so that children can mentally switch from one topic to another. Play a song to summarize what was just finished, or a song about what is coming next. Allow the children to stand up, march around the room or do hand movements to mark the transition. You will find your children fresh and engaged for the next subject. Click here for some great transition songs!
2. Energize – When children have been focusing on a subject for a time and begin to get fatigued (usually marked by restlessness, inattention, disruptive behavior), take a break from the class and call a music break. Play a activating song, best if related to the topic, to re-energize the children. Click here for some great suggestions!
3. Use Lyrics – display lyrics on a whiteboard, smart-board or on flip chart paper. Have the children find sight words, diagram the sentences or pull out academic vocabulary. Using the text while the song plays, gives relevance to the lyrics and allows the children to learn conventions, build vocabulary and enhance reading and literacy. Nearly all the music at Songs For Teaching is sold with lyrics.
4. Write Lyrics – collect a few instrumental tracks of familiar songs and as an assignment have the children write their own lyrics. This can be done individually, in small groups or with the class at large. The teacher can incorporate a current theme or target information learned from a particular lesson. It might be a great project for a poetry lesson! Here are several suggestions for instrumental tracks.
5. Power of the Pause – Pausing the music at key spots in the music can increase engagement. Pause before the end of a line and ask the children to finish the line. Then think of other words you could substitute for the actual lyric. Brainstorm other words that rhyme or words that may change the meaning! Use the pause button with any song (remember musical chairs?). For rhyming songs try Jack Hartmann's Rap, Clap, Rhyme. Also see Marla Lewis' Rhyme Riddles!
6. Pair with Literature – There are a number of ways to pair songs with the books the children are reading. Teachers can select songs that relate directly to the book. For example, if your class is reading Mr. Popper’s Penguins, you can incorporate this song also titled Mr. Popper's Penguins directly about the book. Or you can find songs about a related topic such as Penguin Partyabout the different types of penguins or Puffin's Summer Picnic to learn about animals of the Arctic. This can be a great way to address the Common Core directive to integrate science, social studies etc into reading. Or . . . flip it! Listen to a song before going to the library and have the children find related books! Click Here for more songs inspired by Children's Literature.
7. Make Music Video – This is a great project to integrate the sciences. Children can find photos on the internet and arrange them in a slide show to convey meaning in the song. Take the song Hibernation for example. . Children can collect photos of hibernating animals and sync them to the music. How about a song about amphibians . . . or a song about the solar system. Not only do the children enjoy the science lesson, they build their technology skills as well.
8. Coordinate with Holidays - Most teachers are used to playing songs related to the big holidays, but don’t forget the other special days of the year. For example, Earth Day is coming soon. It is a great time to play music related to conservation such as Music with Mar.'s Can It, Save the Planet. It also can be a great way to integrate songs about historical figures related to that holiday. For Earth Day, you could play a song about John Muir and learn the history of the day.
9. Have a Performance! This can be something simple like a performing for the classroom, perhaps across grade levels or with reading buddies. Or it can be for a school assembly or parent night. Using instrumental tracks saves the day when an accompanists cannot be found. Click here for some suggestions for performances! Make costumes and write your own scripts. Try one of our great musicals that come fully scripted complete with vocal and instrumental tracks.
10. Just plain fun! Try some silly songs for the simple joy of it. Make the classroom environment one that nurture’s children’s creativity and natural desire for learning.
We know you have many choices as a consumer, and we here at Songs for Teaching want to win your business. So here are our top 10 reasons to shop at www.SongsforTeaching.com for your children's educational music.
Number 10. We've done the research! - We know that you want the best for your buck. We preview all the cds listed on our site for the following criteria:
a. The music must be of high quality.
b. The content must be educationally useful and appropriate.
c. The production value must be professional quality.
Number 9. We provide music in a variety of formats Hard Copy CDs, Mp3 downloads, Videos, Sheet Music, Lyrics etc. Many of our songs even have teaching materials as well.
Number 8. We are on the up and up with current trends in Children's Music. As Corporate Sponsors of Children's Music Network, a consortium of musicians, educators, producers, songwriters etc., we connect regularly with other like-minded folks who are committed to bringing quality music to children.
Number 7. Hard-to-Find Titles - We carry many items that never made it on to those "big dog" web sites. Some artists prefer to sell exclusively with Songs for Teaching! Looking for that folk song your grandmother used to sing? We probably have it!
Number 6. Lyrics, Lyrics, Lyrics - Nearly all of our products include lyrics. This is heaven for teachers who utilize lyrics as a teaching tool in the classroom. Lyrics matter and having a printable version saves teachers precious time and energy! Can't get that from the big dogs!
Number 5. Recommendations - Not sure what to buy? Tired of searching among thousands of songs and cds on those "big dog" sites? We have recommendation pages for nearly every topic. Just click the next to the topic of your choice on our Home Page and it will list out song suggestions for that topic.
Number 4. I answer the phone! - Customer Service is my favorite part of the job. I enjoy talking to parents and educators helping them with their orders or offering personal recommendations. I like email too! If you leave me a voicemail or email, I try my hardest to get back to you as soon as I can. You aren't getting the customer service department, you are getting me - an educator, a parent, a musician and the owner of Songs for Teaching.
Number 3. We take Purchase Orders. - Simply fax in your signed purchase order (866-769-8528) and I will take it from there! I am happy to jump through whatever hoops required to become a "Preferred Vendor" for your organization.
Number 2. Support Small Businesses - While "shop local" doesn't quite describe us, the sentiment is similar. We feel like we have a little shingle hung on the Main Street of the World Wide Web. We know it might be the trend to shop at one of those "big dogs" but this Mom and Pop are committed to helping you!
Number 1. We are Artists too! - We have been writing and recording educational music for years and really believe in it's power as an incredible medium for education. Our ultimate goal to get quality educational music in the hands of parents and teachers.
David & Alice Burba,
Songs for Teaching Owners
Pack your bags and grab your favorite harmonica, it’s camping season!
The best part of camping is making s’mores, of course, but the second best part of camping is singing campfire songs.
Douse yourself in bug spray and take a deep breath of that crisp clean forest air. Imagine the earthy smell of campfire smoke wafting under your nose and feel the cool grass beneath your toes. The stars have just woken up and the sky is still has a pink afterglow. Dodge the marshmallow your little sister threw at you. Crickets are singing their nightly chorus and the spring peepers join in. This moment right here, this is summer.
Now that you’re in your happy place and I have your attention, please grab an acoustic guitar (or a musical friend) and learn these songs for your next camping trip. These songs are even great in the car on the way to a camping trip.
The great thing about camp songs is that they are often sung in rounds, have interactive parts, hand motions, and silly lyrics so even those reluctant to participate will crack a smile after a few minutes.
Maybe you’re like me and completely, utterly, hopelessly a lost cause when it comes to singing. No worries! Campfire songs are not known for their difficulty and many can be lyrically spoken like “Going on a Bear Hunt.” No excuses. Everyone can enjoy a little Kumbayah or Down by the Riverside.
Don’t forget the scary stories either. Songs, stories, and s’mores are the essentials of every camping trip.
We've prepared a Free Downloadable Lyrics Book with Campfire Songs you can print out for summer singing fun.
Happy May, everyone! As a teacher, I think of May as a time to wrap up my year and a time to think about how I can do it all over—better—next year. As a Songs for Teaching teacher-musician, I’m happy to help you to do these things—with songs and classroom-tested activities!
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It’s time to wrap up the year. I have created an “Ultimate End of the Year Extravaganza Package,”
which features “The Hug Song” from my Make Good Choices CD. Wrap up your school year with lots of hugs and tons of fun, user-friendly craftivities. I've included instructions for modifying assignments for grades K-3. From Kindergarten Graduation fun, to 5-paragraph essays, your students will enjoy reflecting and learning until the very end of the year.
This end of the year packet features:
1. "Memories" cover art for grades K-3 in full-color and black and white.
2. "Sweet Cinquains and Other Poems" Ice-Cream Cone Writing Craftivity: Children write one line of an end of the year poem on each scoop of ice cream. I've included instructions, templates, and ideas for modifying to meet your children's needs.
3. "My Favorite Books" Craftivity and Shape Book: Children choose which face and hair best match theirs, add a book, add hands, and then add pages to make a shape book.
4. "Celebration Hat--Glyph, Shape Book, and Wearable Hat:" Children answer questions about school preferences and color the hat based on answers in the glyph section of this craftivity. Add writing activities to make a shape book, and/or choose to create party hats from 2 different templates.
5. "Sun-sational Summer Plans" Shape Book: Choose from blank pages, lined pages, or prompt pages to meet your students' needs. I've also included instructions for writing longer essays.
6. "Keys to Success" Shape Book: Children write a "key" to success in your classroom on each page of this book.
7. First Place Ribbon "School Favorites" Shape Book: Children write their favorite things about school, as well as favorite songs, movies, etc., in this project. I've included blank, lined, and prompt pages as well as ideas for expanding the assignment.
8. "Friend-Ship" Autograph/Shape Book: Children sign one part of the ship each. I've included several different templates so that children can choose to simply sign their names or write longer notes. I've also included a suggestion for ensuring that all students sign all books.
9. "Graduation Cap" Shape Book and Wearable Hat: Children write about what they've learned, their goals for next year, their goals after high school graduation, and their goals after college graduation. I've included prompt pages, blank pages, and lined pages as well as ideas for making wearable hats and expanding the assignment to meet all students' needs.
10. Simple Memory Book Pages: Attach these basic memory book pages to covers at the beginning of the packet if you are ever running short on time.
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Now, to think about how we can do it all over—better—next year. Why not align your entire curriculum with songs? Songs make standards come to life. Children love singing. The repetition is like a commercial—but better. While commercials play in the background, using songs in the classroom involves active listening for the purpose of learning. As your children sing, they are repeating important information. They can also do motions to help cement the information in their brains. Alternatively, they can read the words to improve reading skills as they continue to reinforce content each time that they sing.
For those of you who teach Common Core State Standards, I’ve designed my Common Core KinderMath and Common Core 1st Grade Math CDs to teach concepts and strategies in every single Common Core K-1 standard. My Early Phonics, Phonics Time, and Advanced Phonics programs teach K-2 Foundational Skills and more. Six Traits Writing teaches the six traits along with presentation skills and parts of speech. The book features charts, rubrics, and activities to enhance learning. Start the Day With a Smile and Make Good Choices offer fun ways to make each day exciting in your classroom.
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My goal in creating CDs is to give teachers complete musical programs. Teachers often ask what they should use in various grade levels. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Preschool Teachers: Please take time to look at my Early Math, Make Good Choices, and Start the Day With a Smile CDs. I’ve designed these programs based on my experience in the classroom, based on teachers’ needs, and based on comparing preschool standards of many different states.
Kindergarten teachers: Your students will also enjoy Make Good Choices and Start the Day With a Smile . In addition, please try Early Phonics, Phonics Time, Science Songs, and Common Core KinderMath. These programs will meet your curriculum needs for an entire year.
First grade teachers: Your children will love to Start the Day With a Smile as they Make Good Choices as well. Please try Phonics Time, Advanced Phonics, Science Songs, Health and the Human Body, and Common Core 1st Grade Math.
Grades 2+: Please try Advanced Phonics, Six Traits Writing, Science Songs, Health and the Human Body, and Make a Difference. In addition, my Skip-Counting Chants are great for giving children the fluency they need for multiplication and division.
"Miss Jenny," founder and president of Edutunes, is a teacher, children's song-writer and national teaching consultant. Miss Jenny has created over 200 educational songs in top-quality programs. Click here to find all Miss Jenny's Products at Songs for Teaching
I just completed a Songwriting Workshop Residency with second graders at Wantagh Elementary School in Wantagh, NY. Everybody has been so excited about it – both the process of creating and the completed songs – that I am inspired to share it here with fellow teachers and musicians. Here is the first installment.
Before giving a songwriting workshop, I meet with the teachers and ask: How many of YOU enjoy writing? If you love it, your students will! Now I’m not talking about composing The Great American Novel; just, say, answering an email. Expressing yourself to a friend. Ask yourself: do you enjoy that?
Then I ask--Are your students:
• Eager to write?
• Bursting with ideas?
• Willing to revise and edit until they are proud of their work?
• Can’t wait to share their writing with the other kids?
Now wouldn’t that be awesome? Second graders have just begun to express themselves in writing. This year, they are beginning to write stories and non fiction pieces. They have been encouraged by the Writer’s Workshop Model to discover seed ideas and begin to develop them with details. Hopefully, children are beginning to think creatively. I like to review some facts about creative thinkers:
• They are flexible; they will try out many possible solutions to a problem;
• They let their ideas flow more freely, without judgement;
• They make use of the right brain (intuitive) as well as the left (logical and practical); and
• They don’t give up easily! Creativity definitely IS 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration! (e.g., Einstein, Marie Curie, Edison)
Here’s how my songwriting sessions work:
SESSION I --Prewriting
Part 1: What is a song? A song is made up of lyrics (the words, a form of poetry) and melody (the musical notes – try humming “Happy Birthday” without the words, and reciting the lyrics without the music, to illustrate).
The lyrics should have a strong meter, or beat. As we recite “Happy Birthday,” we’ll clap to the beat of the words. The chorus is the main idea of the song – what the song is about -- that repeats at least twice or more.
Part 2: Example of a strong chorus. I hand out the lyric for a song with a really strong chorus. Just last week, the second graders listened to “Happy” by Pharell Williams, with a copy of the lyrics in front of them. The children love this song, so it helps them to easily understand the concept of chorus as main idea.
Part 3: Generating Ideas for our song. Important: Your class will already have decided what they will be writing about! (This saves lots of time. Using the Spring theme, some possible ideas include: Coming out of hibernation, butterflies, things we love to do in Spring, etc.) Together we brainstorm about ideas, vocabulary, and facts your class finds most interesting, using words or phrases only. We can use a Word Web or whatever graphic organizer you find most helpful, either on chart paper or on a smart board. No idea is “good” or “bad” – we want a flow of ideas here. We will review this list with the class and ask the children, “Can you tell me any more about that?” Get the children’s energy and understanding of the topic. In this climate, the ideas come fast and furiously! I call on children while the teacher acts as scribe. Toward the end of this session, we take time to reread what we have written on our chart. Do we notice any trends? From this, we get a very good idea of what the chorus will be about. It is even possible that we come up with a few possible song titles and/or first lines of our chorus.
Before I return for Session 2, I ask teachers to have students generate more ideas during Writer’s Workshop. They can each write words, phrases, or sentences about what they found most interesting about the song’s topic. (Homework: Identify the choruses of favorite tunes on the radio).
Submitted by Marla Lewis
Marla Lewis has been dubbed, "one of the best creators of children's music in America today...whose songs are... filled with a warm wit and a happy heart." (--Steve Cahill, President, Songwriters' Resource Network). Her CDs have won Parents' Choice Gold and NAPPA Gold awards. Currently, Marla is writing personalized songs for children with cancer through Songs of Love, a national charity. She is also writing songs with second graders and singing with preschoolers at day care centers.