Sunday, June 19, 2022

Hike by Pete Oswald

 Hike by Pete Oswald (of The Good Egg and The Bad Seed fame) is a beautiful (almost) wordless picture book. 

Follow a Dad and son into the mountains as they witness the magic of the wilderness, overcome challenges, and plant a tree to give back to the forest. This beautiful book is full of possibilities for movement and vocal and barred instrument exploration (images that move down or up, small and large trees, mountain peaks, hills and of course those beautiful winding trails).  Or, have small groups create movement tableaus for different pages or create 2-beat building bricks about what the father and son are doing or seeing.  

Perfect for back to school talks about summer trips or for Earth Day.  

This would work well with Trees 'Round the Earth from my new book, Singing Waters, Dancing Flames published by Beatin Path Publications.

For a clearer image of the song, click here to download.

Another great tie in would be the beautiful canon, This Pretty Planet.

Or use Seeds of Love by Gemini

Another extension idea using the book Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert, post click here

To see a video of Planting a Rainbow and the Seeds song by Gemini, click here. 

What is your favorite song or activity about nature? Drop a comment below. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

End of Year Favorites

 Happy May, Happy End of the School Year (in the US) and Happy Almost Summer! 

Can we just take a moment to pause and realize how immensely difficult this year has been? The third abnormal year of teaching during a Pandemic. I think we all thought yay, we're back in school after the craziness of Global lockdown, remote teaching, teaching in person, being hybrid, back to remote, back to remote, constant change and never quite feeling like the sand stopped shifting. I don't think any of us were prepared for the behavior challenges our students would have, or that consequences don't have the same meaning or are absent from students lives.  Student interactions have changed radically - no touching, don't get closer than 6 feet, then 3 feet; sanitize or wash hands; mask up; don't breathe too close to me; don't sing; don't share instruments; don't touch anything! With this lack of interaction children didn't know how to be around other children, couldn't make a line, couldn't stand in line, couldn't stay in line. And the list can go on and on.  

Take a moment and breathe and say, "Well done." No judgement - we've all done the best we could each day and that might look different hour to hour or minute to minute. 

This summer I am going to be hosting a 4-part "Summer Camp" on my Patreon to playfully plan for next year!  I hope you will consider joining us! Come join us here! 

I always look forward to the end of the school year - not only because it is the end of the school year but because we sing songs around a campfire our last day in music and for the whole month leading up to it we sing camp songs, clapping games, and really fun and silly musical things that keep us laughing and singing all the way to the end. I do this with first through fourth grade (my highest grade level).  All of my campfire songs (a book of over 50 songs) is posted for my Patreon subscribers.  See all previous posts about campfire songs here. 

I am excited to build my campfire next week. Here is last years:

Don't know where to get started? Here are a few from GoNoodle:

Go Bananas:

Boom Chicka Boom:

Peanut Butter in a Cup:

Little Green Froggy:

Coast to Coast:

For my littles we are also singing and moving but with less of a narrow focus.  Kindergarten music focuses on ocean and butterfly themes, with lots of rich song material and children's books.  Click here for the google slides with books, songs, and videos. 

My students especially love Butterfly, Butterfly, which is a book that is out of print and currently $60.00 on Amazon! Here is a read aloud from youtube. 

Insert the song below at appropriate times and have students move like a butterfly while they are singing and sitting on a "flower" (floor) while you sing. 

My littles - Junior Kindergarten - sing a variety of songs and the focus is on vibration (their classroom focus for science this month), so lots of instrument playing. 

Both of these groups really love the Sylvia Pizzicato video from Musication.

I get out triangles, rhythm sticks, and shaker eggs. Students choose which instrument they want and then we watch and play when the bee lands upon each flower. This is also a great assessment opportunity to see if students know how to correctly hold instruments (triangles especially) and if they play with accuracy. Students holding triangles put them away and choose either sticks or shakers, those with sticks put them away and choose triangles or shakers, etc. Play again. Another assessment opportunity. Repeat and play a third time and students will have been able to play all three instruments and you will have three assessment opportunities for accuracy and understanding of playing technique!

Grades 2, 3, and 4 LOVE Pass the Beat and will play this (almost) all day long! 

Hope you enjoy some of our favorite end of the year activities!

Friday, April 29, 2022

The Listening Walk

Sounds. Noises. Music. Squeals, splashes, tweets, whistles, zonks, and barks. 

This is a fun video to get children thinking about sounds. 

Clangery bash, splish a ma splash.

Whomp, rumble, wah wah squeak.

So many sounds to make, to hear.

Listen, listen, use your ears. 

I love starting with this book and every couple of pages insert the speech above.

Then we review the ways we use our voices and bodies while we play Boom Chicka Boom. We speak this with various voices; cow sounds, baby style, low and high voices, whisper voices, etc. We also explore new ways to keep the body percussion ostinato.

Next we read The Listening Walk by Paul Showers and Aliki.

Once we have read the book, we go on a silent listening walk outside. You could also choose to take your walk through your building. Students work in pairs with one pencil, a clipboard, and one recording sheet below.

Students then discuss their favorite 5-7 sounds and how to recreate them with voices or bodies.

Next we talk about how to show the sounds visually. I love this post from Classicfm on how art and music collide in graphic notation. Here is one of the graphic scores shown, isn't it gorgeous and a great example of linear non-traditional notation?!

Here's another fun one for singers:

Students will choose an order for their sounds - what comes first, second, etc.? Are they all quiet sounds or is there a mix of quiet and loud? Is there a mix of high and low sounds?

On a blank piece of paper in landscape orientation, students draw a “road” and write their favorite 5-7 sound names or representation. Add dynamics of p or f for quiet or loud for each sound. Perform.

Then we discuss how composers interpret sounds with instruments. Here is a student sample:

Next students circle up to three sounds to try to interpret on instruments. The other instrument sounds continue to be performed with voices or bodies. Students choose the kinds of instrument timbres that best represent the sound. This part can get NOISY, but allow for the noise and for the exploration as students make choices and decisions. There is no right or wrong answer.

Now we are ready for the song to create a Grand Rondo! 


Perform in rondo form with song as A Section, student creations will be contrasting sections.

Then we listen to excerpts from Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony (No. 6). Beethoven deeply loved nature and often traveled to the countryside outside of the busy city. 

As Beethoven's favorite place was being in nature, while listening students draw pictures of their favorite places and add a few sentences about this favorite place. 

This takes 2-3 classes (depending on length of class) and is a fun activity my students have enjoyed for several years!  
Crystal sent me an update to her song and the way she uses the book - here is a Forte/Piano Garden Scavenger Hunt using f and p cards made from paint chips! 

Hope you enjoy! 

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Spring is Here

 I love spring!  All the flowers, the new leaves budding, and green; so much green!!! 

I have been playing with some older lessons I created years ago and have had so much fun using Spring is Here by Will Hillenbrand with my students. This is a Bear and Mole story and is so cute - kids love the ending! 

It is a nice introduction into half note, too!  Check out the lesson below. Click on this link which will take you to the full Google slide complete with a 6-minute video lesson that will talk you through how to teach the lesson as well as give you the 2-beat building bricks.  Like everything else you see and want more lessons like this?  Come and join our Patreon community for exclusive content, monthly mini workshops and mentorship opportunities. All for about the cost of a cup of coffee per month! 


Saturday, April 2, 2022

Books and Music for Ramadan

Ramadan is a holiday celebrated by Muslims around the world. It begins at sundown April 2 and ends May 1 this year. Through fasting, Muslims believe  their relationship with God will be strengthened, as it makes up one of the Five Pillars of Islam.
This 3-minute video shows children sharing information about Ramadan:

This book is the story of Najma, a girl who rises each morning of Ramadan to the drum beat of her neighborhood's musaharati. He wakes each family for the pre-dawn meal before the day of fasting. Najma wants be a musaharati herself one day, but the job has never been one for girls.  This is a lovely story of resilience, determination, and courage.

This is a great read aloud of the book:

Lisa Zargarpur wrote a beautiful article for the American Center for Elemental Music and Movement (ACEMM) with a song for Ramadan.  Check it out here! 

Hena Khan is one of my favorite authors!  
I fell in love with Crescent Moons and Pointed Minarets a few years ago and wrote an activity I put in my Painted Music book.  

Here is a link to the pdf with the above images and the 2-beat building bricks.

Hena Khan has several other books I love! 

Ramadan Mubarak


Sunday, March 6, 2022

Manipulatives - The Why and The What

Manipulatives are objects students or teachers use within a lesson to teach or reinforce a concept. 

Manipulatives are engaging and playful.  They make abstract musical concepts visual and concrete. 

Digital manipulatives made to be dragged/dropped, etc. do not engage the brain in the same way and do not impact fine motor skills.  Digital manipulatives are also not typically used in small groups and do encourage social interaction among peers.  There is a time and place for tech.  Using hands-on manipulatives, students develop and practice communication skills with small group composition or partner play.  Kinesthetic learners need the tactile experiences hands-on manipulatives provide. The best reason to use them is simple - they are inexpensive, and FUN!  

Learning Sequence

 This gives students  a variety of experiences and provides structure and familiarity while working in small groups, then partners, before individuals use manipulatives alone.


When using manipulatives with rhythm I begin with imitation - students recreate the rhythms displayed. For example, students will recreate a displayed rhythm with popsicle sticks.  Then we explore rhythms using building bricks, later we would write rhythms with dry erase boards and eventually we would use pencil and paper after many experiences with imitating, exploring, and creating with manipulatives. 
Beat strips - four hearts on one side, three on the other.  This way you can work in triple and duple meters!

Popsicle sticks for rhythm dictation and composition - I prefer just the large colored ones from Dollar Tree. Some people prefer small and large ones, but I really like to KISS - Keep It Simple Sweetie! 

Foam hearts - perfect to find at Dollar Tree or your favorite craft store!  Write various rhythms on each one. 

Pipe cleaners to create notes and Noteman (thanks to Shari and Ashley for this idea).

Two- beat building bricks.  I have so many sets of these for various activities and content areas available in my Patreon community.  Print, cut, and give to students! 

Rhythm Dice; these can be created from purchased wooden dice or foam - Dollar Tree has carried these in the past. Draw notes on each side with sharpie.  Make sets of these with quarter, eighth, and quarter rest, another set which includes two single eighth notes, and another set which includes sixteenth notes.  Each side of the die is a single pulse/beat.

Group together and put into a plastic baggie - get the good heavy freezer bags and punch a hole in the top so when students put them back in and close them the air escapes and they lay flat.  Four inch (or so) piece of string in the bag to show tied notes. 

Mini erasers - These are great to use for notating the number of sounds on beat strips. Also, they are just SO cute! 



Staff boards                                                                                                                                                   

These are commercially available from your favorite music retailer but can be pricey.
I particularly like these staff boards made out of dollar store cookie sheets and electrical tape (also from dollar store).  Original idea from Elizabeth at Organized Chaos. On the back you could make a 2-line or 3-line staff or 4-beat rhythm blocks (the bottom shown here is 8-beats). 
You don't have to use the purchased magnets (they can be pricey); you could use foam (available in craft packs from Dollar Tree) and cut out circles to glue googly eyes on and then glue small round magnets (dollar stores and craft stores carry these).

Draw a 2-line, 3-line, or full staff on a white piece of paper, draw four boxes on the back for a 4-beat rhythm area and place the page inside these page protectors (click on photo to go to Amazon link).  Use dry erase marker or your favorite mini-erasers, transparent bingo chips, or other manipulatives.

Popsicle Stick Texting Sticks

I love these as they make solfege ladders become more personal and interactive. Click on the picture to see Ms. Manguso's tutorial and free downloadable images.  Use a glue stick or Modge Podge to stick the printed letters on. 

Felt staff with notes. Sew a zigzag stitch or use fabric paint to create lines on rectangles of felt, cut black circles from black felt for the notes or use Bingo chips. 

Skittles and M & M's 

S printed on Skittles and M printed on M and M's - give a variety of each to students to dictate a 4-beat solfege phrase for So and Mi, notate a SM song, or have students create their own!

Mini Erasers

Great for kinesthetic learners (and everyone) and fun for students to manipulate. Target has these in the Dollar Spot often and are seasonally themed. 

Pipe Cleaners/Chenille Stems

Children love the fuzzy texture and bright colors and most of them have not used them before! They are the most flexible (pun intended), highly underrated, and undervalued.  They are also wonderful for fine motor control!  You can roll and bend them into notation shapes, use horizontally to demonstrate so and mi/high and low, and bend them to show vocal exploration or movement pathways!  SO much fun in something so very small.  

Yarn for students to create vocal exploration (and movement) pathways

Cotton Balls for vocal exploration and melodies on a sky blue paper background.


Cups - I like the Mini "Solo" Cups Dollar Tree has - they always have the red ones and at Christmas time they also carry green. You could also use any other cups in two or three colors to create elemental forms of ABAB, ABBA, AABB, etc. 

Construction paper or foam shapes cut into 4" squares, circles, triangles - one color per shape and one letter per shape - A, B, and C

I hope these give you some ideas. There are so many other favorite manipulatives - what are some of yours?