Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Sing a Song of the Sea

As the end of the school year is in sight, why not take your students on a few "vacations"!  Musical ones, of course! 
First up is the beach.  This shot is from Maine, my home state. Our beaches are more rocky than sandy, but incredibly scenic with lobster boats, rocks, lighthouses and sea roses (pink flowers at bottom left of pic).
Some of the children we teach may never have experienced a beach before; mix some salt in water and give them a smell or have them dip their fingers in to taste the salt water.  Bring in a variety of sea shells but you will definitely need some ridged ones today; these are called cockles.  Yes, like the song "Cockles and Mussels".  They look like this:
Here are a few song suggestions for your trip:

The Waves

This is a lovely song by Lynn Kleiner from "Songs of the Sea" book.  My kids love to sing this with a stretchy band; up, down, in, out.  On "out" we pull back as faaaaar as we can!  Beautiful song, you will get the idea here, although with preschoolers using scarves.


This is an idea developed by my friend Laurie and I. Buy a bunch of colored Dollar Tree paper plates! Cheap and colorful! Ask your art teacher to have the kiddos cut these into spirals or do this yourself.  Hold the middle part and let the rest of the spiral fall. Use Carnival of the Animals "Aquarium" music. Tell the students you are going to take a trip today under the ocean; share pictures of octopus, coral, whales, jellyfish, etc. Tell them today they are going to be a jellyfish; ask them how jellyfish move; can they move their hand like a jellys? Legs like jellys, head like jellys, bodies like jellys?
Stand, hold the paper jellyfish (aka spirals) and move to the music; no jellys touching each other because they'll sting each other and die (you, the shark, will tap on their shoulders and they'll sit). Parts of the music have lots of descending passages, demonstrate to the class how to move your jellyfish from high to low. 
Usually I have half the class as part of the ocean (under big blue scarves) or seaweed (green scarves or other green props) or coral (orange/pink scarves).  These students stay grounded on the ocean floor and can't move about.  We play about half the piece of music and then switch jobs and begin again. 

Scuba Diver


 Mermaid's Song

I recently came across a beautiful quote and wrote a song around it.  Wish I knew who to contribute the words to.  I don't often write in modes but really wanted something mysterious and dorian was it! 

Long Legged Sailor

This is from my book, "Hands to Hands, Too". 

Going Over the Sea

Younger children will love this one!  It's an oldie but a goodie.  Song starts at :40.

Hole in the Bottom of the Sea:

 4.20 UPDATE with links!!
Here is list of other ocean themed songs and a short list of concepts and skills to work on with each:

At the Bottom of the Sea (Amidons) 6/8, movement, names of children
Baby Beluga (Raffi) picture book, movement, phrasing, expressive qualities
Baby Shark (Camp song)  movement, repetitive melody
Blow the Man Down 3/4, dotted half note, low C for recorder
The Boatman Dance MRD (ending), sixteenths
Cape Cod Girls (AKA Heave Away or We Are Bound for Australia patterns in 4/4, pantomime
Charlie Over the Ocean echo, chase game
The Coast of High Barbary call and response, movement, 6/8 fast tempo, British
Cockles and Mussels 3/4, in key of G easy for recorders to play, Irish
Come All Ye Young Sailormen AKA Blow Ye Winds Westerly, 3/4, dotted quarters
Drunken Sailor (change lyrics to “wobbly pirate” or “silly pirate”) minor, eighths, quarters
Going Over the Sea 6/8, repetitive phrasing, rhyming, sequencing #'s, Canadian 
Highland Laddie (Sea Shanty)  
Humuhumunukunukuapupa'a (Music K8) Hawaiian fish, phrasing 
I Saw a Ship a Sailing 6/8
Ickle Ockle Blue Bottle eighth, quarter, SLM
I’se the Bye 6/8, Newfoundland, clapping game in Hands to Hands, Too
Isle Au Haut (Maine island song) lullaby
 La Vibora de la Mar Mexico
Land of the Silver Birch Native American, eighth, quarter, eighth pattern
The Mermaid dotted half note
My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean 3/4 time, dotted quarter, phrasing, Scottish
Octopus AKA Slippery Fish (Charlotte Diamond),cumulative, movement
Old Ark's a Moverin' eighth quarter eighth, spiritual, BAG song/MRD
Once there Was a Pirate (The Silly Pirate Song by JackHartman) cumulative, movement, pantomime
Our Gallant Ship MRD ending, eighth sixteenths
Peg Leg the Pirate ti ta ti, passing and guessing game, solo
Phantom Ship by Patricia Lou Harris (Galliump CD)
Sail Away Ladies Sixteenth, eighths
Sailor on the Sea, MRD, recorders can play BAG, game
A Sailor Went to Sea Sea Sea eighths, sequencing, clapping game
Sea Shell Half notes, Do-Sol, Mi Re Do

Talk Like a Pirate Day (Music K8)
There's a Big Ship Sailing on the Alley-Alley O 6/8, Irish
Three Jolly Fishermen MRD ending
Turn the Glasses Over Double circle game, extended pentatonic; low C/high C

Vamos a la mar SMD, quarters, eighths, rest, Guatemala
 Wishy Washy 6/8, dance, cumulative movement

What are your favorites??




Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Rabbit Songs Two Ways - Minor and Major

I am going to begin this blog post with a bit of discomfort - one single word; contentious.  While the celebration of Easter is not controversial, for some of my families it is certainly debatable and disputable.  As we sing songs about eggs and use rhythm eggs and other spring music, I do not want my Hindu, Buddhist, and Jewish children to look like this as we sing songs about spring that they might interpret as being about Easter:
As a Christian I must put aside my feelings about the meaning of Easter yet still honor the spirit and joy of the holiday. 
I love contrast; light/dark, joy/sadness, minor/major, etc.  In that vein, and needing a few more activities this time of year that celebrate symbols of the season yet are not overtly about "Easter", I wrote a couple songs yesterday. 
The first, Bunny Run, is in minor!  A song about a bunny in minor?  YES!!! This one includes an optional created B Section using Haiku poems. 
The second, Bunny Rabbit (original title, right?) is pentatonic and includes options for the B section using instruments.  Enjoy!!


Monday, March 13, 2017

Sixteenth Notes

I am part of a Facebook Group called "Music Ed Blogs".  We are a group of dedicated music teachers who blog regularly and love to share ideas and learn! 

As part of Music in Our Schools month, we are taking turns posting each day on one aspect of rhythm.  Today is my turn and I am so excited.
I teach Junior Kindergarten through Fourth Grade at an independent (private) school. Therefore, my upper grades are third and fourth. I am going to share a few ways to teach sixteenth notes today!


So, here are some ideas: 

1.  The Orange or the Pizza?

Say what?  Yes, as sixteenth notes (and eighths, and triplets, etc.) are divisions of ONE, and subdivisions of the measure, which has already been divided into duple or triple meter.  With me so far?  Good.  Bring in an orange and a knife, or a pizza.. trust me, orange is easier and smells better; you want kids walking in saying "what a nice smell" instead of "ewww.. smells like stale pizza".
 Why an orange?  It is a beautiful sphere, almost a perfect circle, unlike apples or potatoes which can be weirdly shaped.  You want something round to represent a beat.  Once your class has learned a song with sixteenth notes and experienced it (in the Orff Approach, experience first, label later), seat your class and dramatically bring out your orange.  I slice mine on a music stand with paper towels underneath it.. very fancy.  I do this without talking- it's hysterical. Whip out the orange, dramatically approach it with the knife (as in ceremonial sacrifice) and plunge the knife in.. the kids love the drama. Then cut the orange in half.  Show each half, then put the orange back together and put pointer finger in the air to show "one".  Break it apart and find a visual in your room that shows eighth notes, run over and dramatically point to each note and then to each 1/2 of orange.  AHA! Eureka!  Connections are being made. Cut each half of orange in half again and voila! Sixteenth notes. Hopefully you have a visual somewhere in your classroom or have written/displayed it on whiteboard. Look around the room and shrug your shoulders. Show each quarter of orange and look around again.. they'll get it and someone will make the connection and woop, woop, what is that note called? 
This is where you quietly ask  if anyone knows the name of that note?  This is where I have the students turn and talk about what they just saw me do. Often their "kidspeak" during turn and talk is much better than my instructions and chatter. 
Following this, we will read the rhythms of a song experienced in class and quickly discover the notes we were singing in (example) "Chicken on a Fencepost" had three sets of sixteenth notes!  Then we sing more songs and experience playing and moving with sixteenth notes and then we are ready to create.  This sequence should not happen all in one lesson; it takes time.
One of my FAVORITE games to play with this is from another blogger, take a look at Tika Tika Tic Tac Toe!
And just in time for St. Patty's Day this Friday, remember, too, a four leaf clover is ONE weed/clover with FOUR leaves!

Another lesson idea:

2.  No One in the House But Dinah

This is a sneak peak!!  I am currently working on a Singing Games from Around the World book to be published this fall. This is one of the songs and games going in the book.

For more ideas, here is another post I recently wrote on sixteenth notes.
Happy Spring (Almost... almost... almost.. can't wait!)!

If you are looking for a (wonderful) list of songs with sixteenth notes, with links to free music, Beth's Notes has it all! Click Here!!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

St. Patrick's Day Song and Sneak Peak of New Book!

I LOVE singing games!  You can probably tell this if you have been on my blog for any length of time!  Children also love them (of course) and they encourage even your most reluctant singers to join in; perhaps it is the focus on the game and the lessening of focus and attention on "singing" as a skill.  They are wonderful, of course, whether you identify yourself as a Kodaly, Orff, Laban, or general music teacher as you can find songs that are within the Kodaly sequence, songs to teach specific concepts and skills, or to encourage solo singing or build sense of community.  Invaluable!
I am currently finishing a book of Singing Games from Around the World and was fortunate enough for one of my lovely Orff friends, Marilyn, to share an Irish one.  The story:  Marilyn was seated on a flight next to a wee Irish lassie and when she found out Marilyn was a music teacher, song after song poured out of her and she helped Marilyn to transcribe the notation and Gaelic!  How incredibly lucky!

1. Lamha Suas

Today I will share the English version Marilyn wrote, you will surely recognize the tune!  The Irish/Gaelic and this version will be in the new book! :)

2.  St. Patrick Was a Gentleman

Lyrics and sheet music can be found here.
I use this song as a dance:
Introduction - Bend knees or rest
Swing all eighth notes.
A -
Circle right 8 beats, circle left 8 beats:  FW 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 turn, 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 center.
In, in, clap clap clap (ta ta titi ta), out, out clap clap clap (ta ta titi ta), repeat
Rest for 4 beats and get ready - hands at sides
B -
Right heel on floor, right toe on floor (say heel, toe) clap clap clap (ta ta titi ta)
Left heel on floor, left toe on floor (say heel, toe) clap clap clap (ta ta titi ta), repeat, rest until next A Section.
Form:  AB

3.  Getting Me Eire On!

I posted about this last year and have several other activities including my favorite Irish song, "Rattlin' Bog".

Click here for my previous post on Irish music and songs!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Adaptive Recorders with 3D printers!

Adaptive Recorders!  Have you, like me, ever had a student had great difficulty with playing recorder due to physical limitations such as missing digits or small hands?  I wish this product had been available for them but luckily, it will be for us now!

I met Valerie at the  AOSA (American Orff Schulwerk Association) National Conference in New Jersey a few months ago.   Several years ago a friend of hers added keys to adapt a soprano recorder for her to play. 
 She was so inspired by how this helped her to play the full range of the instrument that she and design engineers at Makers4Good began to tinker with innovative key designs. 
 Now here’s the fun part- they will be cost-effective and help students with missing or partial fingers,
inadequate finger strength, or small hands.  They are testing prototypes with 3D printers and hope to make their project files available to the public. 
How cool!!! I love technology, and I love that there is a company ready to adapt and customize parts for ALL students to be able to play recorders!  Thank you, Makers4Good!  Their site is and can also be seen on

Friday, February 10, 2017

Will You Be My Valentine?

These are a couple of favorite "Valentine" activities to use in the music classroom. 

1.  Tweet Hearts

This is a lesson from Thom Borden. 
Click here for the lesson.  He uses laminated hearts but I found these lovely foam hearts at Dollar Tree a couple years ago. Here is the book information, from

2.  A Tisket a Tasket

My third graders have a big jazz unit that coordinates with their study on Southern States; our high school jazz band comes to talk about the evolution of jazz and we enjoy several activities in the music classroom singing African-American songs like "Head and Shoulders, Baby 1, 2, 3" and learning to scat!  They love it, and we learn about Ella, Duke, and Satchmo.  I love playing the song, "A Tisket a Tasket" with Ella Fitzgerald singing and showing the book of the same title.
Available here from Amazon. 
Once we read/sing the book, we play the game:
Slight lyric change:  A tisket, a tasket, a green and yellow basket. I wrote a letter to my FRIEND...
Players sit in a circle on floor. Inside circle place a number of instruments; Orff instruments set up in pentatonic, or unpitched percussion, etc. One player walks around outside of circle holding letters (envelopes with a four beat rhythm inside although you could have a solfege pattern written on each one or any concept you are currently working on that students need to demonstrate). At end of song the player drops one letter behind another player in the circle and is chased by the player who has the letter back to their place in circle.  Player opens letter and plays the rhythm pattern on one ofthe instruments inside circle. Play continues, letters all in instrument players hands as they walk around the circle to drop a letter to a new friend..

3.  Other posts:

Click here to see previous posts on Valentines ideas: