Thursday, October 27, 2016

Creepy Visual

I LOVE using props, especially this time of year. If you are looking for a creepy,"dark" prop to use, these are very effective and easy to make!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Happy Falloween!

See the title? Yup, I was tossed- what to name this post? 
Seriously, so much fun, so many songs, so much wonderful symphonic music (Danse Macabre, Night on Bald Mountain, In the Hall of the Mountain King, etc.) and so little time!
Here are a few favorites:

1.  Pass the Pumpkin,

(Click on the title) I think I have emailed the pdf to at least 500 people.. so far. This song is in minor, and has the words, "spooky", and "boo", but other than that, it does not reference Halloween. Teachers love the iconic to actual rhythmic representation (little pumpkins that have stems like rhythmic quarter and eighth notes) and the students love the game and rotation activity with instruments.

2. Apple Tree 

A wonderful SLM song, with a super-exciting-giggles-galore game! 

3.  Creepy Crawly Spider

Perfect for those schools (or teachers) that don't want to use Halloween songs, this song and accompanying activity makes a spiders web you can dance with! My first graders, who study spiders and bats, LOVE this song and the activity!

4.  Black Snake

This is a HUGE hit with my students!  They would play this all year long if I let them! 


  •  Choose a "hider" and a "seeker".  The hider has a black rubber snake (thank you, Dollar Tree) which the kids love.  The seeker goes outside the door or covers eyes, the hider hides the snake somewhere in the room with a wee little bit of tail sticking out.  In my room, the hider goes to get the seeker, who then comes back in the room while the children begin to sing the song at a pianissimo level, when seeker gets close to where snake is, students sing louder and louder until the snake is found.  GREAT for reinforcing dynamics!  We play that the seeker (who found the snake) gives the snake to the next hider and the former hider chooses the new seeker and everyone gets ONE job to do (not both). 

  • Another way to play is to have one student hide in the room while all others close eyes.  This person is the "snake". When ready, all other students walk or march around the room past the “snake’s” hiding place until the snake runs out to tag someone who becomes the new snake.

5.  Leaf Man

This is a wonderful book by Lois Ehlert and I love the activity that goes with it.

6.  Pumpkins and Ghosts Game

You know those games and activities you create and then don't get to them for a year or two?  I just got this out last week and played it with my first graders and I forgot how much they loved this simple yet oh-so-effective game that helps them to decode eighth and quarter notes and also gets them writing notes in a teamwork configured game.


7.  Fall Rhythms

Another one I don't always get to but that my students really enjoy!

8.  Sing Me A Monster

I love this activity and it's perfect for creating a non-threatening solo singing experience.  Also great for working on adjectives!
Pair this with the book, "If You're a Monster and You Know It" to the tune of "If You're Happy and You Know It" and the kids will be growling, snarling, and singing!  Get the book here from
While you are at Amazon, also check out Glad Monster, Sad Monster by the same authors! I just ordered it and am wondering how I can work in experiences with mood, timbre, and major and minor tonality!


9.  Sixteenth Note Halloween Rhythmic Cards

SO much fun for your older students.  There are many sets of cards, click the link above for more.

10.  Skin and Bones

It wouldn't be Halloween if my fourth graders (oldest grade I teach) didn't perform this for each classroom teacher (and they still play along and get "scared" each time.  Students learn a simple orchestration and we add props and characters, even have someone hiding in another room (the closet) with a broom who jumps out at the end and scares the "old woman" who is always played by a very willing teacher!  The kids BEG to do it again!
Here is a sample of the pdf- email me at musicquilt@ for any of these visuals. I am happy to share! :)  Have fun!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Twenty Four Robbers Book

I recently posted about the book, " Twenty Four Robbers" and had a question about the song and chant from a follower of the blog. It got me to thinking about the rhyme I learned as a child and about the book and so I started researching and lo and behold (!) there were multiple versions of the song!  I LOVE when this happens- and wonder who changed the words and why and when. 
Twenty Four Robbers is available from Amazon.

The book is delightful, and I love Audrey Wood, author the delightful "Napping House" and "Silly Sally"!  The picture book has such delightful images, and a maiden who calls out,  "H-O-T ... Hot Peppers!!!".   This is a great Halloween alternative for those teachers who can't talk about Halloween, as this is dark and deliciously fun!  

Here are some of the variations I found for the chants and songs:

1.  From my book, "Hands to Hands, Clapping Songs and Games from Around the World" available here from Beatin' Path Publications

2.  "Twenty Four Robbers is also called, "Step Back, Baby", here is a wonderful teaching video with explanations of process. AND- I love the accent!!!

3.  This is such a cute arrangement and would be very easy to program for a concert!

4.  Paired with "Captain, Go Sidetrack Your Train":
5.  From Beth's Music Notes,  an AMAZING resource, here is this version, also a canon!:
6.  From Mama Lisa which has the initial jump rope rhyme I learned as a kid, but the ending is new to me.   Not Last Night Jump Rope Rhyme

This is the version I remember: (from here.)
ONE, TWO, THREE... (continue counting until someone made a mistake with jump rope)

This version is from Michigan:

7.  Twenty Four Robbers by Fats Waller (includes lyrics with "bottle of gin" and "shotgun")

Friday, October 7, 2016

Nutcracker Bucket Drum Routine UPDATED and with VIDEO!

It is a teacher workday today and I am in the midst of chaos as I finalize my holiday concerts.  We have just started Halloween music and are skipping over Thanksgiving as I have limited time to prepare concert music. My December is usually packed- two days before school is out for the Holiday Break I have 3 concerts!  So we are rehearsing pretty much all of December and I have no extra time to squeeze in lessons on Nutcracker but I tend to do a little the first week back in January and of course, I play Nutcracker Music as students are entering and sing all my transitions to Nutcracker music and frequently add a movement piece into either the concert program or as a parent participation piece, which they LOVE!
I created a bucket drum routine several years ago:

Here is the video (excuse the tee shirt and lazy hair/no makeup; it was a teacher workday!)

Here is a nice listening map to the Nutcracker March:

And for all you heavy metal fans, I LOVE this one:

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Let Us Chase the Squirrels with Book, Games, and Extension Activity

Have you seen the tongue in cheek post on social media about women being "arrested" for selling dime bags of pumpkin pie spice? Signs of addiction are women breaking out fall boots, sweaters,  suede, and candles with pumpkin and apple smells. 
Fall is probably my favorite time of year.. well, it's a close tie with spring, but in North Carolina, our spring is dreadfully short!  It doesn't quite feel like fall, with temps still in the high 80's or low 90's everyday, I am READY for some cooler weather.
I love watching the squirrels run all over the place hoarding nuts and they don't seem to care that the weather here is, um, rather warm!
 Let Us Chase the Squirrels is such a fun song for this time of year!
Here is the song:

And two different games to play.

And of course, the MOST AWESOME, Those Darn Squirrels,  that is hysterically funny!



How do you store your lessons for your books?  I like to keep mine inside the book so when I go to use it is right at my fingertips. Make a little pocket out of cardstock, use packing tape to outline 3 sides. I can also stick a CD inside the pocket if I make a recording of myself reading the book.
Here is an extension activity for older students. Sing the song, then divide into groups and use some or all of the following ostinato to create a contrasting "B" section to the song. Transfer the ostinato to unpitched percussion?  Play on "coconuts" or other wood instruments?  What form?  Decisions, decisions, oh the kiddos will have fun with this one!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Halloween Manipulatives

I walked into Dollar Tree just last week and look what I found!  Perfect for creating word chains as "B" sections to known songs, or for rhythm dictation; you speak a rhythm, students have to put icons on the floor to correctly show the rhythm.  FUN!!! Maybe even write the rhythm on the back of foam pieces so students can self-assess!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Books to Sing, Songs as Books

Picture it:  Inside a _______ bookstore (insert your favorite bookseller), deep in the children's literature section. Soft pitter patter of feet, moms reading quietly to children when suddenly a loud joyous laugh breaks through the (almost) silence.  Yup, that'd be me finding a new song/book book/song.  I love finding these little gems and there have been more and more published in the last decade or so!  Yeeeha!! 
Of course being a musician and music teacher I love songs, especially those "magical" ones that are timeless treasures, and I also love children's books and have a bit of an obsession with them- this is my bookshelf at school with *some* of my picture books.
 I am trying to keep the top shelf as songs which are books or, depending how you look at it, books that are songs.
Good news for me is they keep spilling over. Last year I finally changed how I was organizing them and now have them alphabetically. Phew- I used to have them by author and genre, but that just didn't work for me.
Second shelf has books that I have found or created music lessons to accompany them, with third bookshelf holding seasonal activities and books I have yet to create music for but have ideas. 

Aileen Miracle over at Mrs. Miracle's Music Room has a great post about ten of her favorites, which inspired me to make my own list of favorites. 

1.  I Got Two Dogs available here from This song is addictive!  I ordered it a couple weeks ago and just played the song with my daughter on the ride home last week and it is hysterical!  "AGAIN, AGAIN", I kept hearing from the back seat! It is highly infectious and another gem from the amazing John Lithgow but I have to say, it's probably my favorite one he has written!

2.  Twenty Four Robbers by Audrey Wood, available here. 
OK, technically not a song with a melody (although I do know one to go with it), this skipping rhyme has a wonderful sing-song cadence to it and the illustrations are fabulous!

3.  Sing, available here.

Oh, where do I start?! "Sing! Sing a song. Sing out loud, sing out strong."
The song was first made popular on Sesame Street, then interpreted by a WIDE variety of musicians, from Gloria Estefan to the Dixie Chicks to R.E.M., as well as famous personalities such as Conan O'Brien, Katie Couric, Nathan Lane, and Liam Neeson!  Lively, happy illustrations accompany the book as well as a CD with the music.

4.  I Ain't Gonna Paint No More, available here.
Oh, this is such naughty fun!  My students love to combine this with "Johnny Works with One Hammer", eventually changing the lyrics to "Johnny paints with one paintbrush, etc.", reading/singing the book- oh they love the little mischief maker, then we play Trepak from the Nutcracker while pretending to throw and smear paint.  Finally, we make classroom statues while singing a song about statues and I visit the "museum" where various statues move, giggle, and snicker and "scare" me, while I pretend to be scared of the moving ones. Such wonderful fun!!

5.  If it's Snowy and You Know It, Clap Your Paws, available here.

Yup, "If You're Happy and You Know It" with polar bears, seals, beluga whales and other artic animals!  Sure to delight your kiddos and wonderful to leave with a sub!

6.  Day is Done, available here.

I happened to be wandering through Big Lots one day and found this for $3.00!!
This is Peter Yarrow's beautiful song, “Day Is Done."  As night falls, animal parents tenderly tuck their little raccoons, rabbits, field mice, deer, and child into bed.  Far more than a lullaby, though, this is a wonderful song (and book) to share for Earth Day; "you shall inherit what humankind has done, but all will be well when the day is done (as I am here)".
7.  Conejito, available here.

This is a folktale from Panama written by Margaret Read MacDonald.  In the back of the book you will find the song that will be sung each time Conejito  goes dancing and leaping (bailando y saltando).  This is a wonderful trickster tale and a few years ago I included a loose interpretation of the story as a program.  Here is the orchestration my students performed:

  8.  Catalina Magdalena Hoopensteiner Wallendiner Hogan Logan Bogan Was Her Name. Whew!  What a name!  Available here.

If you've seen my blog before, you know how much I love camp songs, especially for the last month of school!  This is one camp song that is also a book! Score!!! Outrageously funny, undeniably one of my students favorites. Ever.

9.  Take Me Home Country Roads, available here.

Really, I love all the John Denver songs that have been made into picture books, including "Sunshine on My Shoulders" available here, and "Grandma's Feather Bed", available here.  Country Roads is probably the one that my kids know best, and they love to croon along with the melody!! A great book to have on hand when you have those 5 minute moments of "I need something else here". All the books come with CD's, bonus!!
10.  Over in the Meadow, Over in the Jungle, Over in the Ocean, Over in the Grasslands, available here.
 I love these as they can all be sung to "Five Little Ducks" and children quickly sing along with the numbers (up to 10). We often break out some instruments and play the numbers.  I really like how the illustrations were created with Over in the Jungle and Over in the Ocean; the artist used polymer clay to create the entire image; incredibly impressive! 
Brand new in September 2016 is Over in the Grasslands: On an African Savanna!
Hope you have enjoyed the book tour and have found some new things to buy/ask for/have parents donate to your music rooms! Happy (almost) Friday tomorrow!!!