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.
By Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou
Winter holidays are over. 2011 is here. Now is a great time to being a new year with inspiring ideas and exciting ideals of community-building and service. This year, the day to celebrate the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is January 17th and there are so many was to enjoy and participate in this special day.
First, the basics. How do you take MLK’s inspiring life complete with many of it’s complex issues and share that with kids? It’s great to start with some of the exceptional children’s books on the topic. One of my personal favorites is a beautifully illustrated book called Martin’s Big Words. There is also an exceptional book written by MLK’s sister: My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers Growing Up with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
There are also wonderful picture books, “First Biographies” and even a “Blast From The Past“ paperback written along the line of the Magic Treehouse series. A great book here can make this great life come alive for kids. (A list for youngest readers appears below.)
Since I am a musician, I had the desire to take some of MLK’s favorite speeches and use the most popular quotes to write a simple, singable song. The result was my “I Have a Dream” song which can be found on the SFT website along with sheet music and lyric sheets. I am proud to say this song it is being used in schools and classrooms throughout the USA as a singable way to share the ideas that continue to inspire more and more new generations.
Also, since I love art and creativity – especially when working with children, this year I developed two mini-posters that are also free on my website. They show a sketch of MLK and a rainbow as a symbol of hope and to express my own appreciation that MLK worked for the dignity of people of all colors – not just the equality of African-Americans. These posters have some of my favorite lines from famous speeches. One simply has the quote: “Everyone can be great, because everyone can serve.” The other mini-poster shares more words of wisdom such as: “Life’s most urgent question is: what are you doing for others?”, “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.” And “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” I encourage parents and teachers to let young people color the pictures and think about the quotes. What could those words mean in their homes, classroom and lives? These thoughts are amazing seeds to plant in young minds.
You can check out Daria's free mini-posters here and here.
And last of all, you can always get even more creative. What could you and your family or class dream up as service projects? What cooperative projects could you do to make your neighborhood or school a more beautiful and accepting place or to meet the needs of your community? Projects and activities can be as simple as drawing pictures for local seniors, making a mural, collecting goods for those who need them or talking about bullying and what can be done to keep it from being a part of your school. Remember, as teachers and parents, your role as a leader can be so important in shaping children’s concepts of what it means to be a valued and valuable part of their community.
As kids grow up with media coverage of pop stars, rock stars and superstars hailed as “being great”, it is so refreshing to share with them the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. - someone who truly lived up to that description. And, in doing so, he shared an unforgettable truth that can motivate us all for years to come: “Everyone can be great, because everyone can serve.”
Award-winning children’s performer, DARIA (Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou) has five cds 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.
FREE Song Download: Daria's I Have a Dream
Books On Martin Luther King Jr. For Young Readers
Doreen Rappaport and Bryan Collier (Authors)
A Picture Book of Martin Luther King, Jr. (Picture Book Biography) [Paperback]
David A. Adler, (Author)
Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Ready-to-Read. Level 1) by Margaret McNamara and Mike Gordon
Christine King Farris (Author), Chris Soentpiet (Illustrator)
Johnny Ray Moore and Amy Wummer (Authors)
Martin Luther King, Jr. (My First Biography) Marion Dane Bauer (Author)
Stacia Deutsch (Author), David Wenzel (Illustrator)
There has been a lot of press lately about tragic outcomes due to bullying. This is an issue that we all need to take seriously. The most successful anti-bullying programs take a comprehensive approach by training both teachers and students to recognize bullying and successfully intervene. One-time programs have not been shown to be as effective. That being said, songs that deal with issues of bullying, when paired with discussion and other anti-bullying programs, can enhance student understanding and empathy. Music can sometimes affect people at a deeper level, reaching the heart and not just the head.
As the performing group Two of a Kind, we have often presented assemblies and workshops on the topics of anti-bullying and conflict resolution. We have a number of songs that deal with these issues and can be used as discussion starters. One of my favorite songs is called, “Hey, Little Ant,” by Hannah and Phil Hoose. This song (and the book which was made of it) is about a conversation between a kid and an ant. The kid is about to squash the ant, so the ant tries to get the kid to see things from his/her perspective. By the end of the song, the kid is having second thoughts about killing the ant. The song ends with a question:
Should the ant get squished?
Should the ant go free?
It’s up to the kid, not up to me.
We’ll leave that kid with the raised up shoe
What do you think that kid should do?
Younger kids may be thinking about this song literally as being about a kid and an ant. However, older students can realize that the song has deeper messages about how we treat each other and the value of seeing things from different perspectives. When we do this song for an audience of children, we usually ask for a show of hands at the end from the people who think the ant should go free and not get squished. We almost always have an overwhelming majority of hands raised in positive response to that question, even though we’ve often heard a lot of kids yelling “squish it!” before that point. That gives us an opportunity to point out that the loudest voices (the bullying voices) aren’t always representative of the majority. This is an especially important lesson (for adults too) when the airwaves are filled with loud, bullying voices that don’t necessarily represent most people.
We often like to pair “Hey, Little Ant” with a song that we wrote about making good choices called “When I’m Strong.” The idea behind this song is that although it can be difficult to make the right decision when others around you are trying to push you in a different direction, it feels good and strong to do the right thing. The verses have examples about boys excluding girls on the playground, being pressured to buy things like cards or video games to continue a friendship, and opening a present that was hidden in the closet. The Chorus goes:
I feel good
When I’m strong
When I decide for myself
What’s right and what’s wrong
Additional songs that deal with accepting differences include “Love Makes a Family” by Two of a Kind, celebrating all kinds of families; “So Many Ways to Be Smart” by Stuart Stotts, about different learning styles and multiple intelligences; “Jennifer Montgomery” by Stuart Stotts, about a deaf girl who is excluded, but creates friendship and understanding through teaching her classmates to sign; and “The Colors of Earth,” a beautiful song by Sarah Pirtle about celebrating all colors, by comparing skin and eye color to things found in the natural world. There are many more examples of songs that can be used to start discussions and reinforce programs to help students, teachers and parents reduce bullying in and out of school.
I've spent the last twenty-five years working as a music therapist with young kids who contend with language and communication disabilities. I want to share about increasing vocal and verbal behaviors in young kids. I do have to premise this by saying that these are very generalized, non-specific ideas to consider. I'm not a speech therapist, but these activities can be thought of as a starting point.
By Ron Fink & John Heath of Bad Wolf Press
Many teachers are afraid of doing a play with their class.
It sounds so daunting: big costumes to come up with, sets to build, and so much to organize! You’re way too busy teaching standards to mess with that kind of boondoggle.
John Heath and I have written a variety of musical plays for classroom use, and we have a few principles:
If this is new to you, let me make two more points.
Here’s a fun song from our U.S. Geography show called “The Big Southwest.” It’ll help your students remember facts about that section of the country.
Listen to a clip of "The Big Southwest" from the U.S. Geography Musical Play in the audio player, below.Play Audio: