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!!!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Apple Tree Song and Updated pdf FREE!

I love this song and love the giggles and singing I get out of my students when they sing Apple Tree! Happy Fall, y'all! Email me at for the full pdf.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Draw a Bucket of Water

I know it's been a while since I posted but.... take your pick of the following reasons:
1.  School started! Yay and ugh all in one!
2.  I had to have knee surgery the 3rd week of school!  Yes, really - torn meniscus!
3.  My editor decided that my 2nd week of school was the best time to begin edits on my next book!
4.  Life got crazy!

I have always loved "Draw a Bucket of Water" and all its many variations.  I learned it during Orff Level I training I took in Boston many moons ago! 
Here's the version I know:

I love this song and the learning process that goes with it!
Begin by teaching motions independently; no partners or groups.  Ask one child to do the motions with you, then you each find a partner, then those partners find partners until eventually everyone has a partner. Perform with partners, then ask 2 partners to stay standing while the others sit and show everyone how the group of 4 works. So cute! 
There are many other versions of this song out there, here are a few from youtube:
1.  I love the sugar shake, such a fun variation!
2.  This one has scarves which is another nice variation: