We enter this season of Thanksgiving with very grateful hearts as we have experienced enormous kindness and love over the past three months. At the end of August, our 20 year old daughter, Monica, was in a hiking accident in Northern Arizona and suffered a broken neck and sever head injury. It is the kind of incident that stops you in your tracks and throws your life into a tailspin.
Today, Monica is doing wonderfully well. She spent 2 months in the hospital and now works hard in an intensive rehab program. We expect a full and strong recovery! Monica is beginning to integrate back into her very active college life. She is hoping to take a few classes next semester as she eases back into her studies. This posting, however, is not really about her, but rather about all the kindness and love we have experienced along the way.
We have been showered with love and attention from family, friends and strangers alike. We cherish the hundreds of cards we received while in the hospital, letters from first graders, countless meals from neighbors, an ASU game ball presented by the Coach, teddy bears, flowers, gifts and most of all kind thoughts and prayers. The children's music community of artists and songwriters have embraced us as well.
We are ever more aware of the importance of nurturing this kindness in our children. Our teacher friend, Emily, sent us a treasured book of letters and pictures from her first grade class. An incredible example of teaching kindness. We also believe strongly that music can be a vehicle to teach these important values. (See our songs about Character Education).
And so we give thanks for all we have received especially during this trying time! (Also see our songs about Thanksgiving).
Peace, Alice & David Burba
Songs For Teaching Owners
Halloween is coming! What a fun holiday! When else do you get to dress up as something you do not get to be on a regular day? And, visit houses to get treats! This day has long been a favorite of children (and many adults). In recent years, we have let the opinions of a few affect all. Halloween became labeled as a dangerous holiday with roots in witchcraft and not something we should continue. While it is true that Halloween has roots in Pagan traditions, you may want to consider how this holiday can benefit your child before abolishing it all together.
Below are two links if you would like to read about Halloween's origin. I'd like to focus on why it is a benign, and helpful, holiday for children.
*Roots of Halloween From CBN
*Halloween History From History Channel
On Halloween children will dress as something they'd like to try out. For example, they may want to be a firefighter or baker someday. They also may choose to be a character that they enjoy from a favorite story or show. Another thing that plays a factor in costume choice is being something that has you a little 'uncomfortable'. If a child is afraid of a bear, he might want to dress like one to help overcome that fear. This is a healthy way to confront the issue.
In the above picture, I am telling the story of the "Five Little Pumpkins". Children love it! Songs are another way children enjoy the holiday and explore their emotions. They hear the ominous musical sounds and naturally, the brain perks up for fight or flight. (See "Dark Dark" or "There Was An Old Lady Who Wasn't Afraid Of Anything") The lesson learned is “I was uncomfortable, but I’m okay!” This is why they will ask you to “Sing it again!” We have taken some of our songs and toned down the scary factor for our youngest. Remember, what is okay for a 4 or 5 year old, can be too scary for a 1 or 2 year old. Know your audience!
What I'm trying to say here is many of us have happy memories from our Halloween trick-or-treating. The holiday was long-ago modified to fit the needs of today's society. Celebrating holidays and having rituals is very important. Keep your children safe and enjoy the day. To watch a video of a song about Halloween Safety, see the video below.
Maryann “Mar.” Harman, BA Music/MA Ed
Founder of Music with Mar., Inc.
Here's a little Quiz. . .
1. Which great composer had 20 children?
2. Which composer was known as: The Waltz King?
3. The March King?
4. The Ragtime King?
5. Who, as a child prodigy, performed with his sister Nanerl for kings and queens?
(Answers to follow)
Whatever your level of musical expertise, whether you are gifted or challenged . . . you can introduce the children you teach to 10 of the world’s best-loved composers. With a delightful one-of-a-kind collection, the Kids Meet Composers CD, your class can:
**Hear the composers (dramatized) speaking and joking with them, revealing details of the composers’ works and lives
** Sing and perform to excerpts from masterworks, sung by a children’s chorus, with teaching lyrics, and orchestrated especially for young listeners
**Play “Guess The Composer!” complete with quiz show music.
Why? The value of introducing your class to great composers and their creations goes beyond undeniably tuneful and dramatic fun. You will have invited your children into a world of sublime invention, beauty and inspiration. You will have fulfilled one of our primary missions as teachers – transmitting the best of our cultural past to the next generation. And, as a longtime school music director, I know you and your students will share the magic of their musical discovery and enrichment.
(Answers: 1. J.S. Bach 2. Strauss 3. Sousa 4. Joplin 5. Mozart)
I'm in a room with twenty-five children, four of whom use wheelchairs. As the children act out a song about butterflies, I choose several students from the "typical" classroom to partner with the children with disabilities. The students walk over cautiously at first. But they seem to overcome their shyness as they dance about the kids in wheelchairs. Smiles of pride come to their faces – they're just five years old, but they're doing something helpful that makes a difference in another child's life.
This is my third year as a teaching artist with VSA MA at the Condon School in South Boston, integrating music with the literacy curriculum for children in the early childhood classrooms through first grade. Condon's student population includes many students with special needs, and VSA MA's main goal is to bring together children with a range of abilities through the arts.
This year, we combined classrooms in my music sessions to bring together students from Condon's Developmental Day Care (DDC) program with the Pre-K and kindergarten classes. The DDC students face many obstacles in their daily lives – most have multiple, severe disabilities.
The other children in the school see the DDC students coming down the hall and may feel curious, worried, or even fearful. My music program aims, in part, to help demystify the lives and experiences of these fellow students, and create a place where everyone can enjoy an engaging arts experience.
I've received capable assistance from Maureen Finnerty, known to her young fans simply as "Moe" or "Miss Moe". Moe – who has cerebral palsy - has been part of VSA since her own youth. It's clear when you meet Moe that her early arts experiences had a formative role in shaping her career. Today she serves in a variety of roles as a teaching artist, theater director and performer.
Moe helped demystify the DDC students for me, too. With her help, I learned about how to make my repertoire of tunes, stories, rhythm and lyrics more accessible to a child with a severe disability. I learned about the stimulating vibration of rumbling thunder cans, which help enhance these children's experiences in learning about the Big Bad Wolf or the troll in the Billy Goats Gruff. I learned about using soft-textured beanbags for learning through touch, and providing stimulating colors as we waved scarves.
Most of all, I saw how the active experience of music and movement can bring a story to life for children with a variety of abilities and learning styles. A favorite among the youngest children is my song about the Three Little Pigs. I assign the students parts – as pigs, houses and wolves. For some, there's little to match the experience of belting out the blues chorus of the Big Bad Wolf.
It's especially fun to watch one little girl from the DDC class respond to the song. Her speech, mobility and eyesight are limited, but the minute anyone mentions that wolf, she starts to blow! With the help of her teacher, she's soon careening around the classroom to the bad-wolf chorus.
I also learned from Moe that an important learning milestone for the DDC students is the understanding of cause and effect, and making choices. In my music/movement rendition of the Three Billy Goats Gruff, all of the students have a chance to choose different ways to participate, including playing a colorful rain stick to make the sound of the river, shaking a thunder can to create a "troll" effect or tapping rhythm sticks to make the Billy Goats' "trip-trip-trip" on the bridge.
Helping students understand and make these choices is a big part of enhancing their educational experience. It helps them grasp the concepts in the story, too. Through acting out the story, I hope the students are not only having fun, but learning something important. Whatever challenges they might face – whether it's a physical disability, language barrier or a learning issue – they have strength inside themselves to stand up to adversity and overcome it.
Liz Buchanan's music programs are designed for fun and learning for children from infancy through age seven, although older children and adults also love her songs. Liz loves engaging children with stories and drama, building literacy learning through the arts. Liz holds an MFA in Creative Writing as well as a Masters in Education. In classrooms, in libraries, in the community—Liz's music and creative arts programs help children love learning. Click here to see more of Liz's Music on Songs For Teaching.
Click here to see more songs for working with children with special needs.
This blog post was originally published on VSA Mass Blog for All on May 2, 2013.
Well, it’s that time again, summer is rapidly closing down and it’s time to get your brain back in the game. School is about to start, or may have already for some of you lucky ones out there (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) and I don’t know about you but, much like our students, it takes me some time to get back into the groove of things with each new year.
Don’t waste too much time in those back to school aisles and try and keep the school supply shopping in check, but make sure you budget in some funds for some fabulous new music for the coming year.
One of the best ways to engage your students in active learning is with some fun, catchy music to draw connections between those boring old text books that haven’t been updated in years. Update your lesson plans with some songs about reading strategies and math skills so that you can entertain your new students with and hopefully impart more knowledge along the way. Use some silly songs to break the ice at the beginning of the year and get your students working together in no time.
Your classroom becomes a family throughout the year and is always so bitter sweet to see those little faces grow and move on to the next classroom at the end of the year, better start it off right! Create that classroom of trust and respect from the first day with some music that speaks across all languages and touches each heart.
-Andrea Villegas, MEd.
Andrea is a mother of two (ages 4 and 2) and has been teaching primary school for eight years. She currently teaches second grade in Southern California. She states, "Music is a part of my everyday life at home as well as in the classroom."
My answer is "Absolutely!"
Martin Gardiner of Brown University tracked the criminal records of Rhode Island residents from birth through age 30, and he concluded the more a resident was involved in music, the lower the person’s arrest record. (“Music Linked to Reduced Criminality,” MuSICA Research Notes, Winter 2000.) Music has been shown to help self-regulation, body control and ability to work with others as well as independently. All these skills contribute to one's feeling confident and capable, thus less likely to participate in criminal activity.
A study at the University of South Florida concluded that the highest common denominator among repeat violent offenders was a lack of language skills. When do you feel the most frustration? When you aren't understood. The ability to be able to express yourself effectively leads to better feelings about yourself and better relationships. Music is a wonderful vehicle to learn language, how to express oneself and how to consider someone else's emotion. When we sing songs, i.e. "If You're Happy and You Know it", we are teaching the exploration of feelings. (See Music with Mar.'s H-A-P-P-Y)
Students who participate in school music ensembles have the lowest levels of current and lifelong use of alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs among any group in our society. (H. Con. Res 266, US Senate, June 13, 2000.) Another interesting study supporting the question that names this blog. When children feel a part of something positive, they are less likely to be influenced by peers to be a part of something negative. Teaching children to fill their time with pleasant activities with people they enjoy, teaches them to surround themselves with positive people and stay involved with these activities. (See Songs For Teaching's list of Positive Attitude Songs).
In a 1999 Columbia University study, students in the arts are found to be more cooperative with teachers and peers, more self-confident, and better able to express their ideas. These benefits exist across socioeconomic levels. - The Arts Education Partnership, 1999. Isn't that wonderful to know? That it crosses socioeconomic levels? It doesn't matter what color your skin is, how much money your parents earn or what clothes you wear, music does not recognize any of that. Music just reaches inside you and helps to shape you into the best you that you can be! (See Music with Mar.'s Say "I Can")
Keep in my mind that just participating in music benefits you. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a song that says “I Believe in Me”. (Ooh. Good idea for next CD.) Any song that makes you love music and want it to be a part of your life benefits you. Check out these feel-good titles by Music with Mar.: I Can Be Whatever I Want, Choices, These Little Stars of Mine, Will You Hug Me?, You Gotta Laugh, I Don't Need A Gang, Pledge to Lead a Drug-free Life, Respect & Pride, and Co-Op-ER-Ate.
Maryann Harman is the founder of Music with Mar., Inc., an international music and movement program using music to help children bond with families while developing skills needed to be successful in life. Click the link to find Music with Mar. on SongsForTeaching.com. Her blog posts weekly from her site www.musicwithmar.com
The Bones Song on the CD, Science in Song, is a great way to teach the major bones and their functions and includes: cranium, immovable joint, scapula, sternum, clavicle, mandible, humerus, femur,radius, ulna, carpals, metacarpals, phalanges, tibia, fibula, tarsals, metatarsals, patella, and coccyx. Students enjoy pointing to the various bones as they dance to the beat. This is a favorite skeletal system song among teachers, because it not only teaches the Latin names of the various bones, but it also teaches their functions!
The first two lines of the first verse state, "The skull is the cranium, right on top. Immovable joint and not a soft spot." At birth we have dense, connective tissue, or fontanels, on the top of our skulls which gradually fuse together in a process of hardening called ossification. When teaching to the class, I pass around my collection of skulls from various animals and have the students discuss their similarities and differences. (If you don’t have skulls of your own, pictures will do just fine.)
There are all kinds of concepts you can cover from these first two song lines: the language of science (Latin) and why that is so, definition of a joint and why the skull is an immovable joint, the idea of soft spots-what would happen if babies did not have them, how long it takes to harden and why it is dangerous to handle a baby’s head roughly, etc. These discussions can last well over 30 minutes, especially if you discuss the skull shapes of different animals, etc. It’s also fun to have the kids guess what the animals are, just from the skull pictures. After your discussion, you can start to learn the song!
One trick I’ve used for years is to have the students take notes directly on their own song copies. That way, it’s not simply a song, but it’s a collection of actual lessons that can last for a week or more!
Robin Walling has been teaching middle school science courses in Cobb County, Georgia for over 30 years. Teaching, songwriter and performer, she has used these science songs with her own students with great success. Visit her blog: http://scienceinsong.wordpress.com/Play Audio:
This morning I spent my time with children, singing, pretending to be caterpillars and butterflies, playing sticks, learning rhythms, and letting children make up their own rhythm and spoken word pieces. I watched as the children listened attentively, engaged in music and mime, laughed at silly puppets, and used their creativity.
In a recent New York Times op-ed, Thomas L. Friedman wrote about the need to re-examine education. He spoke to Harvard education specialist Tony Wagner. Wagner said, “Today, because knowledge is available on every Internet-connected device, what you know matters far less than what you can do with what you know. The capacity to innovate — the ability to solve problems creatively or bring new possibilities to life — and skills like critical thinking, communication and collaboration are far more important than academic knowledge.”
As a teaching artist, I read with interest, but nothing in the article or the comments afterward mentioned the arts as a vital and important way to help children learn innovation and problem-solving.
Wagner went on to say, “We need to focus more on teaching the skill and will to learn and to make a difference and bring the three most powerful ingredients of intrinsic motivation into the classroom: play, passion and purpose.”
What better way to bring play, passion and purpose into the classroom then through the arts? My husband and I often lead song-writing residencies where we help children to create original songs. It is a process-based activity in which the students are creatively engaged throughout the project. They choose the topic and the point of view, organize their ideas, create lyrics, invent melodies, and work together in a cooperative process. The students become invested in the project because it is their ideas, their song. When the song is finished, they record it and perform it in front of their classmates and families. They feel a sense of accomplishment and pride in the work they have done.
Yet everyday we meet obstacles – under-funding, over-testing, and always the mantra “we need more instructional time.” Somehow, many people have the idea that if something is fun, children aren’t learning. Administrators, teachers and politicians need to remember that the arts are instructive. Not only that, but they help integrate all the lessons the students have been learning in an enjoyable and meaningful way. People need to dance, sing, act, write and create visual art in order to live a full life and be fully human. If we are deprived of these activities, the world becomes a dreary place and we lose the passion, play and purpose of living.
As Sir Ken Robinson says, “Creativity is as important now in education as literacy and we should treat it with the same status.” Education specialists around the world are talking about the need to foster creativity as a way to train people to be more innovative and flexible. We need to make sure the arts are a big part of that conversation.
By Jenny Heitler-Klevans
Two of a Kind
To hear more great music from Two of a Kind Click Here
As a classroom teacher of 24 years, I know the importance of teaching the standards and the pressure of students performing well on test scores. Somehow, that all pales in importance when I think of my good high school friend, Larry Herrera, who lost his life at the age of 19 serving in the Vietnam War. He never had the chance to get married, have a job and family, or live a full life.
Years ago I wrote a poem about him which I read (with difficulty) every year to my students for Memorial Day. I always show them his picture and the rubbing I made of his name at the Vietnam Veteran’s Wall in Washington DC. Even in the already packed school day, I always feel it is of upmost importance to talk about him and other individuals who gave their lives so all of us could enjoy ours.
Eventually, I created a melody for this poem and turned it into a song – No Time (listen to song below) which is part of a collection of songs I wrote and produced for two CDs to teach students about our country (Learning About Patriotic Holidays and Symbols by Song and Learning American History by Song). To make them complete learning and teaching tools, each CD has vocal and accompaniment tracks, downloadable workbooks, scored music, activity pages, and black and white drawings for coloring. They offer a unique, easy, and fun approach to learning social studies curriculum that’s not time-consuming.
Since our entire grade level learns these songs, at the end of the year we put on a Patriotic Holidays and Symbols Program that includes twelve of the songs on the CDs (Click Here for program script). It shows everyone how much the students have learned throughout the year, and the parents love it! It makes everyone feel proud and grateful.
24-year veteran teacher, 3rd-6th
CD Company: Learning by Song
Guest Speaker: Benefits of Curriculum-Based Songs in Teaching
Tutors children of homeless families
Neither you nor I own one word in any language that we did not personally select, drawn from the crucible of situation and problem-solving. Selection of vocabulary requires opportunity to do so, and plenty of it. The following personal anecdote should clearly illustrate the concept of linguistic self-selection.
I was seated at a corner table in a New Jersey Italian restaurant, away from windows, with my back to the wall; a custom born of viewing The Godfather Trilogy too many times.
At the neighboring table, seven adults and one three year old boy were seated. I use ‘seated’ as a relative term with reference to the three year old as little boys of that age rarely do what we refer to as ‘sitting’. More precisely, he was twitching, sliding, swinging and generally trying to find as many uses for the chair as possible during the meal. I lost track at use number 17…
By the time that the adults had ordered their respective meals, I had already finished my antipasto and was now contentedly awaiting my main course. Everyone at the neighboring table had ordered substantial meals, with the exception of the little boy, who was to dine upon the obligatory burger, accompanied by fries, soda and a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Watching this child was like watching Mount St. Helen. The question I pondered was not whether there would be an eruption, but rather when that eruption would occur. After two bites of his burger, a few nibbles of his fries, downing the entire soda and devouring the ice cream, he was now done! Unfortunately, his adult dinner mates were just beginning. He was not pleased by the prospects of having to endure this much longer.
At precisely the hour and fifteen minute mark, the eruption occurred. Unable to control himself any longer, the three year old threw his hands up in the air, brought them back down on his chubby little knees and, in a little pipe organ voice, intoned the following phrase: “Let’s get the h_ _l outta’ here!”
The restaurant, which heretofore had been filled with quiet conversation and the sound of tinkling china and silverware, now fell to a hush. All eyes turned to the child, who now oozed down into his bolster seat in an attempt to attain safe harbor somewhere below the table. I, of course, did all I could not to laugh out loud!
Still, the best part of this entire interlude centered upon the look that the mother shot across the table to the father. If a glare could vaporize human tissue, this man would have been become particles in the atmosphere. Her message, attested to by the kinesics of her body language, went something like this: “You see! Don’t I tell you not to talk that way in front of the baby! You see how he IMITATES you!”
To say that the 3 year old simply imitated his father would be to imply that the child was a hapless victim of ambient or ‘drive-by’ language; that the child was the ‘passive’ recipient of language that he never intended to own. To the contrary, I would submit to you that humans aggressively select language that is pertinent to their lives; language that helps them to resolve problems. We select our own lexicon.
Did the father use the phrase that the child so succinctly deployed? Beyond a doubt! Was the child present when the father used the phrase? Clearly! But, the 3 year old heard it and said to himself, “I like that! I’ll file that for future reference!” And so he did. And the fact that he waited one hour and fifteen minutes to deploy proves to me that this was not an act of imitation. Just as his father, he waited to deploy until the situation was intolerable.
The statement was age inappropriate, but devastatingly ‘proficient’…
If you believe, as I sincerely do, that language (vocabulary) is 'self-selected', then the classroom must employ mechanisms that encourage self-selection. And those mechanisms must be compelling in nature in order for the language acquirer to engage mentally, emotionally and physically.
My Spanish and French raps (¡Festejemos!, Somos campeones, la Boutique magique and une Boum cool), distributed here on this site by Songs for Teaching, are designed to do just that. Through contemporary beats, focus on specific linguistic functions and colorful animations that provide 'comprehensible input', my music aims to support the 'subconscious' acquisition of language.
Certainly all of us have experienced a melody or song lyrics that we 'just can't get out of our heads' ... Even though there was no discrete attempt made at memorization! In this manner, it is my hope that my raps will effortlessly creep into your student's mind. And, of course, the culminating activity in the process is a performance of the rap, replete with 'bling' and hip-hop garb! ... WORD!
John De Mado produces and records instructional Spanish and French rap albums that feature original raps and animations designed to teach specific language functions and related vocabulary.