The countdown to Thanksgiving is on! It is only a few weeks away, so I know I'll be packing my lessons full of songs related to the upcoming holiday.
Although teaching the history and meaning behind Thanksgiving is essential, it seems that my students are mainly interested in the food they'll be gobbling up on November 26th. So I came up with a fun way to end my Thanksgiving lessons; not only it is centered around the big meal, but it comes with movements!
"Turkey Dinner Dance" involves four different foods: turkey (of course), gravy, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie. For each verse in the song, I demonstrate the corresponding move and ask my students to do it along with me.
Tuck your thumbs under your armpits and flap your arms (turkey-style).
Hold your right arm in front of you, curving it to make a half circle (this is the pot). Then use your left to "stir" inside the pot.
I'm sure you all know this basic dance move, where you pump your fists up and down in front of you.
Hold your arms out in front of you, curved at the elbow, and twist back and forth at the waist.
Or even better, make up your own dance moves! Ask your students to come up with "choreography" for this song and take turns sharing with the rest of the class. If you really want to get creative, add other Thanksgiving foods and corresponding moves. Just make sure you do this activity right before lunch, because singing and dancing to this song is guaranteed to leave you hungry!
See all of Songs For Teaching's Thanksgiving Songs
Childhood obesity is a national problem that we can help prevent.
It's a lot easier to instill healthy habits during early childhood then to repair your teenager’s bad nutritional habits later on!
Exposing a child to teachable moments throughout the year is always beneficial. So during this time of Halloween candy, turkey, yams, Christmas cookies and Chanukah latkes, let's take a moment to teach a few “nutritional nuggets."
Introduce the big idea: “Let me see your muscles,” you say with great admiration.
“Put your thinking caps on. Whoa, you need a bigger cap! Your brain is growing,” you say in amazement.
Discuss with your class how what we eat fuels brains and builds muscles.
Children learn through the senses. Here are some lesson ideas that use many of them:
Math and Science Activity: Follow a recipe using many of the fruits harvested in the fall. Some of the more popular in-season fruits include apples, clementines, cranberries, pears, pomegranates, and tangerines. As you measure, weigh and change the composition of foods, you can connect these concepts to their math and science lessons.
Musical Phonics Activity: Let’s Go Shopping is a fun and interactive song that combines initial phonemes with food. Have your students call out alphabet letters starting with "A" as an adult leader or the recording responds to the call by answering with the shopping items.
Enjoy singing the chorus (especially the “yeah, yeah, yeah” part) !!!
Choreography tip: When the cash register sound effect occurs, have the children raise their hands over their heads and tap their thumb and index fingers together.
Language Arts and Science: Encourage children to expand upon the grocery list by thinking of other items alphabetically. As a follow up for older students, let them categorize their grocery list by food groups.
Physical Education and Language Arts: Have your students form two lines that face each other. One line is the “letter caller”, while the line that faces them has to respond with a food that corresponds to the initial phoneme.
Example: Call: “A” Response: “Apple”
To designate whose turn it is, a ball can be passed between the two lines. To extend the activity, form two groups and have a relay.
Listen to Let’s Go Shopping in the audio player, below.
For many educators, the start of a new month means a new educational unit or set of lessons. I always plan my lessons in monthly blocks, using Mondays to bring new songs and activities for my students. November is a wonderful month for themed lessons; the message of giving thanks is prevalent, which opens the door to so many different learning opportunities.
There is definitely no shortage of concepts that go hand in hand with the theme of giving thanks. Sharing, observing the golden rule, and caring for others are just a few concepts that can be taught and emphasized through song. And of course, the Thanksgiving holiday is the highlight of November. The history, food, and meaning behind this holiday are great lesson topics, and there are songs for each.
The first song that my students and I will be singing on Monday morning, and all month long, is my November song. It includes all of the month's special events in order, the perfect way to lead into all of the other songs and activities for the new month!
Listen to "November" in the audio player below, from Listen & Learn: Months
See all of Songs For Teaching's Calendar SongsPlay Audio:
Halloween costumes have been a popular subject of my "Sharing Songs" (short, musical invitations for students to share an event or story with their peers) since October began. But this week, it seems like that is all anyone wants to talk about! I have been quite impressed with the creativity of some of these costumes, which range from popular celebrities and characters such as Michael Jackson and Hannah Montana, to the classic witches, ghosts and princesses.
And now that I've heard about them, why they were chosen, and how they were put together (all of which make wonderful topics for songs and consequent discussions), I can't wait to actually see them. Luckily I'll get to do so next Friday, when my school hosts its annual costume parade and party.
I still remember the costume parades from my own preschool and elementary school years, and my mom even has pictures! I love the idea of using a song to accompany such a parade, which is why I wrote "Costumes on Parade." It can be used to help students prepare for the parade, and you can even substitute the costumes I list for those that the students will wear.
If you aren't having a parade, you can still sing the song; use the current lyrics or ask the students to suggest the costumes to be included. I can guarantee that your students will come up with much more creative and entertaining ideas than I did! They can even draw pictures of them as an art project.
See SongsForTeaching's Halloween Songs.Play Audio:
October is a perfect time to talk about an emotion that’s often not discussed – fear. There are irrational fears, such as thinking that there are monsters under the bed, and there are real fears, such as being afraid of heights or of fast cars.
Bill Harley has two wonderful songs which cover these two different sides to fear, both included on his You’re in Trouble CD. “When You Don’t Know What It Is” takes a humorous look at some things that might seem scary at first (scary noises, new neighbors, etc.), but “when you find out what it is – it’s ok.” Providing balance, the Latin-tinged Watch Out (also recorded by Two of a Kind on Going On An Adventure) reminds us that listening to our fears can sometimes keep us safe from real dangers: “Watch out – watch out, be careful – that’s what it means when you’re scared.”
Although fear is a natural emotion that everyone experiences, many children feel the need to hide the fact that they are afraid. Bob Blue’s song I’m Not Scared (recorded by Two of a Kind on Patchwork Planet) gently pokes fun at this denial of kids’ real feelings: “I’m not scared – See this smile upon my face, that proves that I’m not scared.
We love the book The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams. It has wonderful sound effects and movement opportunities right in the book. It’s about a little old lady who goes for a walk in the woods. On her way back she meets various items such as two shoes, a pair of pants, and so on until she meets a pumpkin head that says “BOO!” Jenny added a little singing refrain: “You can’t scare me, you can’t scare me. You can’t scare me, so let me be” each time a different object shows up in her path. Young kids love singing the refrain and making the sounds each time an object is mentioned.
The weeks leading up to Halloween are often a time when kids want to explore fear. There can be a certain thrill from being creeped out or scared by a story. A great book with lots of scary and fun poems and stories is Scared Silly by Marc Brown. It is also good to discuss how fear can keep you cautious and safe. Songs and stories can be a wonderful springboard to meaningful discussions of this often overlooked emotion.
Jenny and David Heitler-Klevans, Two of a Kind
Editor's note: See all of our Music from Two of a Kind.
Ask any child what his or her favorite part of Halloween happens to be, and chances are good that most responses will be: "Trick-or-treating!". After all, October 31st is the only night of the year when it is acceptable to dress up in costume, knock on neighbors' doors, and collect a bag full of candy.
However, children must know and understand all of the rules of trick-or-treating, which is something that I've been addressing over the past few weeks with my students. I have found that the most effective way to go about this is to use a social story...set to music, of course! Social stories are tools designed specifically for children on the autism spectrum which help explain real-life situations that might be challenging or confusing; they teach the necessary social skills and responses involved with that situation. But since trick-or-treating is a social activity in which most children engage, a relevant social story can be beneficial to any child.
A social story about trick-or-treating should present the rules as they apply throughout the process. It should follow the character in the story as he or she follows each rule, or is faced with decisions and makes the correct/safe choice. The order of rules might go something like this:
The key to an effective social story is writing it in a way to which the child can relate, and using language that is clearly understood. Pictures to go along with each step in the process are also helpful, and you can even ask the students to illustrate each rule.
When I set my social stories to music, I usually improvise the melody as I go. That way I don't have to worry about the words perfectly fitting a pre-arranged melody, in case I have to change them to meet the needs of a particular class or child. The information itself is more important than the music; the music only serves as a tool to attract and keep students' attention.
Afterwards, you might want to follow up with a more light-hearted, fun song or activity about trick-or-treating. There are so many great Halloween tunes from which to choose!
At any given moment during the month of October, thousands of classrooms are participating in Halloween-related activities. One class might be carving a pumpkin or decorating their room, while another might be planning and creating costumes. While these activities are certainly fun and worthwhile, there is one topic that should never be overlooked when it comes to Halloween: Safety.
While safety probably isn't #1 on the list of students' favorite Halloween-related subjects, there are ways to make it more interesting and interactive (which is key for keeping attention). Since I'm a music therapist, the teachers often look to me when it comes to this! Here are just a few ways that I approach the topic of Halloween safety.
Okay, so I admit it. I'm almost a germaphobe! I became that way when my daughter was out of school for 3 months with whooping cough and at the same time my teenage son got mono.
I also know that music is a powerful teaching tool. As often is the case, my songwriting partner and I took this real-life experience and turned it into a song, Germ Attack. The song teaches children to cover their mouths with their arm or sleeve when they cough or sneeze. It’s great for children with special needs as well as the typical child.
Teaching ideas: When introducing the song into the classroom, tell the children: “Batman is a friend of mine. In fact, we had dinner the other night and Batman had a cold. He shared with me his secret of covering his mouth by pulling his cape across his mouth.” Next show the children how to cough into their elbow. Everyone practices this “super hero” technique before the song is played.
Art center: Encourage the children to draw posters to “Stop the Germ Attack."
Language Arts Center: Encourage the children to create their own comic strip based on the lyrics of the song.
Science: While on the playground, let the children cover their hands with flour. Watch how the flour spreads from surface to surface like germs do after someone coughs into his/her own hand.
I still remember almost everything I learned in my eighth grade Spanish class, and I'm pretty sure that is because my teacher used music to reinforce his lessons. He had a song for the alphabet, colors, numbers, and many other concepts, which we listened to often and could sing along to by the end of the semester.
I was reminded of that Spanish class when we received an email from a reader in México, asking for more information about using music to teach English. Just as there are so many music resources available to teachers of other languages (Spanish, French, German, and Chinese), the same is true for Teaching English to Non-Native Speakers.
Here are just a few of the English concepts that can be taught through music:
A common approach to incorporating music into the foreign language curriculum is to first present the concept or words, and then use the appropriate songs to reinforce the lesson. Play those songs often in class, and make copies on CDs for the students if possible. The more exposure to the music, the better, as the concept and words will be committed to memory through repetition.
You'll also find that many Concept Songs for Young Children are often useful for teaching English vocabulary.
If you have any questions we can address on the Songs For Teaching Blog, please feel free to email them to "rachel at songsforteaching dot COM".
One of my favorite movies of all time, "The Wizard of Oz", inspired the song I'm sharing today. It's about a scarecrow who just can't scare the crows away, just like the character in the movie. This song is perfect for fall, and it also addresses an important educational area: learning body parts.
The lyrics of "Scarecrow Song" mention several different body parts, including the head, feet, elbows, knees, nose, and ears. Here are just a few ways to use the song as a teaching tool for this particular subject.