There are so many wonderful songs celebrating mothers. And many people like to consider Mother’s Day the same type of holiday as Earth Day – a concept that should be honored daily and not just one particular day each year.
A while ago I recorded one of my favorite songs about mothers. It’s called “Here Come Our Mothers, Bringing Us Presents” and it comes from the Zulu tradition of South Africa. I learned the song and the story from a wonderful traditional group of singers from South Africa called Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Ladysmith Black Mambazo was formed in 1960 and has been creating beautiful vocal music with South African roots for almost 5 decades! You can listen to a short sample in the audio player below.
Have you ever wondered what the first musical instruments might have been? Anthropologists say that they were very simple but powerful creations made with natural materials, such as a log drum from Africa, a bone flute from South America or corn kernels or pebbles placed inside a gourd and sealed to make a Native rattle. You might even say that early people or indigenous people were the original reusers and recyclers. But that type of creativity doesn’t need to be a part of an ancient or far-away civilization. If you work with children and have access to recycled materials, then you can also create some awesome instruments that work very much like their real counterparts around the world.
For instance, take the guiro. A guiro is a simple instrument with ridges often found in Latin America countries and it is scraped with a stick or pick or rasp to create wonderful rhythms. The last time I visited Lima, Peru, young kids had created their own guiros from soda bottles with ridges and were playing them with plastic hair picks, while singing their favorite songs. It sounded fantastic. If you want to hear a guiro, color a guiro, hear a guiro song or find a pdf to make one yourself, Click Here.
And how about a didgeridoo from Australia?...
See the entire article at
Listen to a short sample of Daria's "You Gotta Didg" in the audio player, below.
“Mister Frog” and other characters found in my story/songs have helped many children enhance their emergent reading skills. I have spent many years working in schools across the U.S.A. and have witnessed many times the power of music to motivate children to read. One of my favorite quotes is from a well -known language arts specialist and former President of National Council of Teachers of English:
"I can think of no happier gifts that teachers /parents/grandparents can give to themselves and to children than those that offer reading interests and skills achieved through singing” Dr Sheila Fitzgerald, Ph.D -Michigan State University Professor Emerita
In the spring time especially, I use catchy, fun, and engaging songs to also help children understand why it it so important for all of us to care for nature. Songs such as “Save the Earth” and “Plant a Tree for Tomorrow” help students become more aware of their surroundings and even interested in research to find out what living things are at risk of extinction because of loss of their habitats. These songs are sung with great feeling as the students celebrate Earth Day on April 22nd.
After singing “Mister Frog, You Just Think Youʼre Smart" story/song about the transformation of a wiggly tadpole to a laughing, jumping, croaking frog, we usually
discuss frogs and their habitat. We quickly found out that there is great concern by scientists and ecologists regarding the frog population.....
I have composed the song “SAVE THE FROGS!" which has been used in many Earth Day programs....
See the entire article at http://www.songsforteaching.com/articles/savethefrogs.htm
Listen to Dianne Baker's Save the Frogs in the audio player below.Play Audio:
April 22, Earth Day is a wonderful time to teach about care of our school grounds, communities, resources, water, air, land, and animals. Here are a number of ways to teach our students and celebrate both Spring and Earth Day!
I know why they call it Spring. As in ice melting and water running. Stored energy bursting forth. Ok, what I really want to say is that my kids are bouncing out of their chairs. Spring as in boiiiing! Talk about a renewable energy source.
This is prime-time action season. The more the kids can be and become the music...become the story- the better. There's so much to bodily act out and dramatize... and then build on. Here are some ways to capitalize on all that energy through total body involvement in making music!
Springing a song: sing it, talk about it, make up your own additional verses, assign characters and act it out- adapting it so every one has a part, make finger/hand motions, use puppets and drawings, kids can illustrate a song or verse within and then sequence the pictures in the correct order. Make a book!
Springing instrumentally: make your own instruments, play instrument songs either on a CD or live, play along loud or soft (vary the volume) stop and go (press play and resume,) pass instruments around the circle, put them in a box then close your eyes and choose one, name the instrument without looking at it. Use instruments to play rhythms and then use your body as an instument (clap, stamp, tap etc.) Make patterns with body percussion alone. Have a “blind walk” and have the children follow the sound while blindfolded.
Spring and Dance: dance with large groups, small groups, take turns, Dance quietly or loudly. Dance with small or large movements, dance if you meet a certain condition (if you're a boy, girl, or if you're wearing red...) Assign a leader and the other kids follow, pass the leader role down the line so everyone has a turn. Make a sequence and have a group do the first part, then another group do the next and so on. Have a group of two work together one being the right side of the body and the other being the left. Dance and freeze like whatever character or animal you may be studying about.
Here are a few good Spring rhymes/songs to act out, though I confess I do not know the sources. This particular bunch is for tots.
1. Tune: Each phrase is a note in the scale. Words: Peck, peck, peck on the warm brown egg. ----Out comes a neck. ---Out comes a leg. Then comes a wing---- with a flap, flap, flap.---- Happy Easter/Spring ----everybody----what do you think of that? (Peep, Peep, Peep, Peep, Peep, Peep, Peep, Peep. Shh!)
2. Funny little bunnys go hippity hop. They wiggle their nose. And twitch their wiskers. And their ears go flippity flop. or....
3. Tune of Bunny Hop: First you wiggle your nose. Then you move your ears. Then you shake your tail and you go hop, hop, hop. (repeat 3x) (Use an instrumental version of the Bunny Hop. During the musical interlude (between the verses), hold hands and circle right then circle left. (Do what fits.)
4. I love you. I love you. I love you so well. (sign the words) If I had a turtle, I'd put you in the shell.
5. Tune: Miss Lucy. Words: I had a little frog. His name was tiny Tim. I put him in the bathtub to see if he could swim. He drank up all the water. He ate up all the soap. And he burped last night from a bubble in his throat.
Margie La Bella is a music therapist and special educator with over 24 years experience working with pre-school and school-aged children.
Check out her excellent albums for ages 2-10:
Move! - Action songs about understanding directions and following through with them. (Receptive language)
Sing! - Action songs with sounds, words, and simple phrases. (Expressive language.)
Mixing it Up - More interactive songs about following directions, vocalizing, singing, moving and playing simple instruments. This album contains Margie's spring song, Tweet Little Birdy
Listen to a short sample of The Caterpillar in the audio player, below.Play Audio:
March is reading month!
Reading does not have to be quiet or boring. In fact, we believe that reading can be exciting. Readers' Theater, musical plays, and songs about classic children's books are all activities that get the whole class involed and excited about reading.
Here's why we love Readers' Theater and Musical Plays:
1. They provide repeated reading practice without memorization of lines - which is an important factor for building fluency.
2. They build confidence in both reading and performing in front of a small group. Students are so thrilled at their newfound skills that they ask to perform for younger classes.
3. The plays fit into different curriculum requirements and are available for all different subjects, not just the language arts.
4. There isn't just one star of the show. Everyone can have an equal amount of time in the play and equal importance.
5. No costumes or props are needed, but can be used if you like.
6. They're funny! Both adults and children will find them entertaining. Children are encouraged to "ham up" their lines and embrace their characters.
We offer a nice selection of Readers' Theater Scripts, Musical Plays, and Children's Literature Songs for all different subjects. Remember to keep the atmosphere casual. The goal is to have fun and learn at the same time.
The rainforest is an incredible place full of mystery and wonder, it's not surprising we are still learning new things about it every day. Children love learning about the exotic wildlife that inhabits the jungle; powerful jaguars, playful monkeys, colorful parrots, and all kinds of strange creatures offer a wealth of learning opportunities. In fact, the rainforest is so complex it is easiest to divide it by level. The canopy is where the most activity takes place and it also happens to be home to many species of monkeys. Try some of these rainforest activities and play like the monkeys do!
Monkey See, Monkey Do Game
Someone gets to be the leader monkey first and the rest of the players copy the movements of the leader. Example: the leader touches his/her nose and the rest of the monkeys touch their noses. Take turns as the leader.
Banana Bites Snack
Spread a peeled banana with peanut butter and roll it in a crunchy cereal. Slice the banana into bite-sized pieces. Enjoy!
February is certainly the time of year for cold hands and a warm heart. Valentine's Day is often regarded as a commercial holiday that exists simply to sell cheesy cards and questionable chocolates. Perhaps Cupid has gone a little mainstream, but he still makes time for archery practice. Show your loved ones and your friends how much they mean to you with something homemade that they will cherish for a long time to come. My dad still has a paper valentine I made for him when I was five. I covered it in rhinestones and lace, then decorated it with watercolors. It hangs proudly in his Man Cave one month of the year. Maybe you're a domestic god or goddess and can whip up some elaborate Valentine's display that would make Martha's jaw drop, or maybe you're still mastering scissors and paste. Regardless of skill level, these activities will be sure to please everyone and add a little personal touch to this Valentine's Day.
by Jamie McElroy
by Ben Stiefel
Learning to read notes on a staff is valuable for all children, whether they play an instrument, sing, or simply love music and wish to learn more about how musicians compose and play. But learning musical terms such as staff, clef, time signature, key signature, and measure, can be boring. How do you make the teaching of note-reading exciting and fun? Here are some ideas:
Let children write on the chalkboard. Once you've modeled how to make a treble clef, for example, have four or five students come to the chalkboard and draw the clef. Play some fun background music while they do it - they'll think they're on a game show.
Speaking of game shows, you can teach almost any musical concept and turn it into a game. For example, when teaching line and space notes, you could create index cards that read "third space" or "fourth line," for example. Make one student the "announcer" who reads any given card out loud. Then have students draw the note that's been called. If it's drawn on the correct line (or in the correct space), give their team a point - or a hundred points. I'd vote for a hundred points - much more fun than earning just one measly point!
I'm also a big fan of children moving around the classroom. Using the same example of line and space notes, single notes on a staff can be drawn on large cards and then placed around the classroom. In this example, a group of students from a predesignated team comes to the front of the classroom. When the "announcer" says "third space," for example, the students walk to the corresponding card, and are given points if correct. For more advanced students who have been taught the letter names of the notes on staff, the announcer can simply say "note B," and those students again must walk to the corresponding card.
There's no reason note-reading should be dull - with a little creative thought, you can shake up your music class and make learning fun!
(For a fun and easy way to teach note-reading to your recorder, song flute, tonette, and song flute students, see Single-Note Symphonies For Recorder. For more fun and easy ideas to spice up your general music class, while helping your most difficult students to learn and achieve, see Winning Over Your Toughest Music Class.)
If you live in colder climates, you are probably ready to have some warmer weather come your way. In my home state of Pennsylvania we have a very cute, chunky groundhog named “Phil” who predicts whether Spring will come early or if we will have to endure another 6 more weeks of winter. You probably already know it’s all based on folk and farm lore where certain animals and their hibernation cycles are said to signify the coming of Spring.
In the town of Punxatawny, Pennsylvania, “Phil” the groundhog is a big celebrity and even has quite a few helpers on February 2nd when the big day arrives. If it’s cloudy, Spring is supposed to come early. If it’s clear and Phil sees it’s shadow – then 6 more weeks of cold weather! In Pennsylvania Dutch areas of our state, there are special “Groundhog Lodges” where there is food, entertainment and skits or plays at this time of year. All who attend must speak only in Pennsylvania Dutch dialect or they are fined a nickel or a dime for speaking English! In general, it’s a great time of year to celebrate our little furry friends and consider why animals are important to our lives.
I spent many of my teenage years in a Native American culture where animals are highly respected. For us, the web of life is woven not just for human beings but by every one of the amazing creatures -large and small- put here to dwell together. Whether it’s a prediction of spring by a hibernating creature or the companionship a favorite dog, cat or bird, wool from sheep or eggs or meat from other animals, it’s clear that animals provide so much for us. With that in mind, it’s great to stop and think a moment about how we are all interconnected and how much animals enrich our lives.
Would you like to learn more about groundhogs and Groundhogs Day? Check out some of the books I’ve listed below. Some are mainly factual and others are a bit more creative – like one about a groundhog starting a weather school and another where the groundhog can’t sleep when he needs to and can’t get up when he should – very funny! And if you’ve ever wondered how much wood a woodchuck could really chuck, you can check out a tongue-twister song (The Groundhog’s Day Song) that I wrote because my family also wondered… how much ground a groundhog could hog if a groundhog could hog ground! We also considered how much sap a sapsucker could suck if a sapsucker could suck sap. (A sapsucker is a rather large bird in the woodpecker family that manages to make huge holes in lots of our pine trees!) And if you’re thinking about animals, you can also listen to a song I wrote with my daughter when she was 9. It was about riding on a horse and listening the wisdom that it can share with us. I was very grateful to record this song with a Lenape Clan mother. The Lenape (or Leni Lenape) are the Native Americans that originated in the area of Pennsylvania where I now live.
And what about activities? Pennsylvania Dutch lodges always have Groundhog’s Day skits. Could you come up with your own skit for this special occasion? Could your class write and perform one? You could also make sock puppets or paper pop-up puppets – great fun for acting out whether or not the groundhog will see his shadow from your own personal perspective. You can find the pop-up puppet activity here: http://freesongsforkids.com/audios/groundhog-day-song-how-much-wood-could-woodchuck-chuck. If you visit my website and sign up for my free newsletter you can also be entered into a contest to win one of two great large groundhog puppets. My monthly song page is located at: http://www.dariamusic.com/
In any event, I hope you have an outstanding Groundhog’s Day! Whether or not Phil sees his shadow on February 2nd at Gobbler’s Knob, I’ve still be keeping my fingers crossed for an early Spring!
Award-winning children’s performer, DARIA (Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou) has five cd’s that have won national honors. She has the most awesome job of traveling the world to sing for kids and peace. Her website; located at dariamusic.com, was given a 2009 Parents Choice Award for its musical and cultural content.
Books About Groundhog’s Day
Gail Gibbons (author)
Wonderful fun and great facts about groundhogs and the Groundhog’s Day celebration.
Wendie C. Old (Author)
Paige Billin-Frye (Illustrator)
A sampler of groundhog facts and a good description of the special day in Punxatawny, PA.
Go To Sleep, Groundhog!
Judy Cox (Author)
Paul Meisel (Illustrator)
A groundhog can’t seem to fall asleep when it’s time to hibernate and has a tough time getting up when his own special holiday comes. Lovely illustrations.
Kathryn Heling (Author), Deborah Hembrook (Author)
A cute counting book for young children with some good groundhog facts sprinkled in!
Pamela Curtis Swallow (Author)
Denise Brunkus (Illustrator)
A groundhog thinks his holiday should last more then one day. His animal friends help make his case for the world to know more about groundhogs.
Joan Holub (Author)
Kristin Sorra (Illustrator)
A groundhog is encouraged to open a weather school everyone gets to learn more about hibernation, groundhogs and the holiday.