I am always looking for ways to incorporate instruments into my lessons with young children. Instruments make a fun addition to any song or activity, and they can also serve as effective aids in teaching a particular skill or concept.
Take shakers, for instance. I use bright, multi-colored egg shakers and chiquitas (egg shakers with handles) on a regular basis for several reasons:
a) they fit right into my students' little hands
b) virtually no skill is required (Shakers sound good no matter what!)
c) they can be worked seamlessly into many goal-based activities.
In fact, I've written several songs based on the use of shakers. While some are just for fun, others have a specific objective in mind. Shakers, Up High! is an example of the latter; this song combines shaker playing, color identification, taking turns, and following directions. Sounds complicated, right? Well actually, it couldn't be any simpler.
Everyone gets a shaker, which could be one of five colors (or more/less, depending on the shakers you have on hand). The students play their shakers throughout the song, holding it high in the air when his or her color is called. Listening is key to this activity!
For students who are just beginning to learn colors, it is helpful to include a visual (either a card displaying each color or an actual shaker) when naming the different colors in the song. I always change up the order in which I name them, just to keep everyone on their toes.
Dr. Suess' imagination and his whimsical rhyming stories have become a staple of childhood for millions of people. His books bridge gaps between generations, allowing parents to share their favorite characters with their children. The 250 words that comprise the Cat in the Hat were a major breakthrough to help fight illiteracy in schools. Beginning reader books were no longer uninteresting as that trouble making, hat sporting, friendly feline lead the way into Dr. Suess' world.
With over 40 books published throughout his career, Suess, touched on various political views incorporating them into his stories. Environmental concern is apparent in The Lorax, while anti-consumerism is touched on in How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, and The Sneetches preaches equality. Dr. Suess managed to keep the books light-hearted and interesting for young readers, yet make them deeper than the typical Dick and Jane books of the time.
So raise your glass to honor the day
the Cat in the Hat had asked to play.
On the second of March, it's Suess' birthday!
Read your favorite Suess books
in your comfy book nook
and remember the one that made reading fun.
Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss
(Sing to the Tune of If You're Happy and You Know It)
There’s a wocket in your pocket, Dr. Suess
There are red and blue fish, green fish in there, too
There’s the Cat in the Hat with Horton and the Whos,
Singing Happy, Happy Birthday Dr. Suess!
Oh no, Thing One and Thing Two are on the loose
There’s a fox that’s wearing socks but has no shoes
There’s the Lorax and the Sneetches standing with Bartholomew
Singing Happy, Happy Birthday Dr. Suess!
There goes Thidwick, he’s the Big-Hearted Moose
And the boy who ran the zoo, he’s Gerald McGrew
There’s the Grinch and Cindy Lou on their way to Solla Sollew
Singing Happy, Happy Birthday Dr. Suess!
How sad it is to me when I am speaking at a kindergarten conference and teachers tell me they “Don’t have time” for fingerplays anymore! What? I understand the pressures of the trickle down curriculum, but honestly, fingerplays are an important connection to all the cognitive areas.
The use of fingerplays (child controls puppets) develops:
1. motor control;
3. a strong foundation for building math skills
(in fingerplays with numbers and counting)
4. self-control; and
5. control of fine motor finger skills for writing
Fingerplays also meet the directive of child-directed activity. Once you introduce a song, you leave the props for the children to then make it their own.
Here’s a suggestion for the upcoming holiday this week:
Written by Maryann “Mar.” Harman
Listen to a clip from "Five Valentines" in the audio player, below.Play Audio:
Black History Month offers teachers a wonderful opportunity to teach students about some of the great heroes in American history who are sometimes overlooked. Teaching about history through music is an exciting and effective way to engage students.
Two of a Kind has recorded a number of songs about African American heroes including
These songs give some facts about individuals who made a difference in the history of the United States. It can be valuable to pair these songs with a research activity, such as making a poster about an individual person. A wonderful book by Faith Ringgold called Dinner at Aunt Connie’s House will introduce students to a whole host of people about whom they may never have heard.
In addition to songs about specific African Americans, it’s also important to talk about why we have Black History Month and why it is important to learn about the contributions of African Americans. Learning songs from the time of slavery, such as Follow the Drinking Gourd and Oh Mary Don’t You Weep will help put some of the history into context.
Two of a Kind has also recorded songs about confronting racism, celebrating diversity and human rights for all. These songs include
These are just a few of the many resources available to help celebrate Black History Month with your students.
Written by Jenny Heitler-Klevans. Two of a Kind
Despite the fact that February is the shortest month of the year, it can often feel like the longest. Winter is in full force, which means inclement weather, often keeping our students inside. Long days spent entirely in the classroom can result in a bit of cabin fever for both students and teachers, and this is when the countdown to spring usually begins!
But since there are still several more weeks of winter (according to the groundhog), here are a few fun facts for February to share with your students:
Luckily, there are several special distinctions and holidays that give us reason to celebrate during this month. Black History Month, Groundhog Day, Valentine's Day, Holidays and Presidents' Day all occur during the month of February, all of which provide wonderful opportunities for learning through song and fun activities.
George Washington was commander in Chief of the army that won American independence from England in the Revolutionary War. He was also president of the convention that wrote the United States Constitution and he was unanimously voted the first President of the United States. At first, people wanted to call him “Your Highness,” but he said, “Call me Mr. President,” and that’s what Presidents have been called ever since.
One week after Abraham Lincoln became our 16th President in 1861, the southern states formed the confederacy and the Civil War began. The Civil War ended four years later on April 9, 1865. Five days after that, on April 14, 1865, after Lincoln had freed millions of slaves, he was assassinated. Lincoln’s life was one of many challenges, but he showed great determination in keeping our country together.
The first verse of We Salute the Presidents honors two great men in American history, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. A February national holiday was established to honor these men whose birthdays were both in February: Lincoln – February 12th, and Washington – February 22nd.
The second verse of We Salute the Presidents honors all the Presidents who have served our country.
The Presidents have the role of not only
(1) Chief Executive and
(2) Commander in Chief of the nation’s armed services,
but also that of
(3) Popular Leader.
As the lyrics of this song explain, Presidents give words of hope and encouragement to all Americans at all times. We should always be grateful for their dedication in serving our country.
Listen to a sample of We Salute the Presidents in the audio player, below. (The instrumental sing-along version is also included.)
Fun Valentine's Day activities from Months of Music
by Karen Rupprecht & Pam Minor
The Valentine Card Shop Game
Will You Be My Valentine?
Materials: red and pink construction paper, glue, glitter, scissors, cut up doilies, lace, yarn, torn tissue paper, ribbon, and bits of fabric.
Method: For every Valentine card the teacher or child cuts a heart shape from construction paper. Glue on any of the materials assembled. Write "I love you" or any message on the back. Ask children to make several Valentines, one to take home and some for the group's "card shop."
Fun Valentine's Day Fingerplay: A Kiss
There's something in my pocket
(reach into pocket)
Could it be a moose?
Could it be a train with a bell and a caboose?
Could it be a snake or some sticky glue?
(put hands in pockets)
It's a kiss from me to you.
Make a Valentine Shake!
Put all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a special, fancy glass and top with whipped cream. Garnish with a sliced strawberry.
You will love this Valentine slurpy treat!
Miss Pennypack's Valentine Poem
Why should we have only one little day
To tell people we love them in a special way?
I send cards and flowers any time of year
To remind people that I hold them dear.
But my friends don't really need a gift...
Just a hug now and then and maybe a KISS!
Winter has arrived full-force in the Midwest, bringing half a foot of snow and counting. We do, however, take advantage of this winter weather by incorporating it into lesson plans and activities. I include a weather song in each and every one of my music classes, and it's a rare treat when the opportunity arises to sing the Snowy Day song.
This song has lead to many different conversations about the weather and its implications for both students and adults. Here are just a few teaching points that can stem from a snowy weather song:
Sure, an occasional snow day is nice, but just think of all the fun and educational opportunities you'll miss out on! If you are facing treacherous winter weather, be careful out there and stay warm!
The third Monday of January was made a national holiday by
President Ronald Reagan in 1983 to honor Dr. Martin Luther King.
That day is around the time of King’s actual birthday, January 15th.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was a black American minister who was the main leader ofthe civil rights movement in the United States during the 1950’s and 1960’s. He was a wonderful speaker
and was able to express well the demands of black Americans for justice.
He had a dream that our nation would rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed that all men are created equal.
A speech he gave on August 28, 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. called “I Have a Dream” was especially memorable. In it, he proclaimed, “Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado. Let freedom ring from the slopes of California. Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia. Let freedom ring from the Lookout Mountain of Tennessee…From every mountainside, let freedom ring!”
He continued to say that when we allow freedom to ring from every village and every city, all of God’s children, no matter what color, will be able to join hands and sing the words of an old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!” These words are immortalized on his tombstone with one slight change. At the end it says, “I’m free at last!”
Listen to a sample of Dr. Martin Luther King.Play Audio: