Sunday, December 29, 2013

WONDERFUL Live Animal Cams for Little Ones!

Hello!  Today I am excited to pass on a few links to some absolutely WONDERFUL live animal cams that your little students will be sure to love and learn a lot from!  Just wait til you see how beautiful the animals are!  Can you imagine what an enriching experience this is for young children, and what a great way this is to encourage language skills?  It's like having a field trip right there in your classroom!  All you need is a computer and internet access.

Just in case you have never heard of a live animal cam, this is simply a live video camera that is broadcast on the internet for anyone to see via "live streaming."  These cameras are usually pointed at places where animals either live, nest, or gather, and most of the time you and your students can watch them free of charge (except that you'll have to get past the commercials first.)  If you visit reputable animal cam sites, you won't need to worry about "other content" making its way onto your screen.

The video above was captured from the live nest cam pointed right at the mother's nest!  Her two babies hatched today, Dec. 29th, 2013.  Then the owner of the camera posted the video on YouTube just to document that special moment.  But you can still follow the progress of the little hatchlings live until they fly away from their nests!

This is a still photo from "Phoebe Allen's" Live Hummingbird Cam.

When I use live animal cams in my classroom, I try to log on when I first arrive in the morning, and let the commercials play before the children arrive.  Then I let the live streaming video of the animals run while the children come in and get settled for the morning, put their things away, and while I take attendance.  I always find it a little funny to take attendance with a live animal cam running behind on a big screen right behind me!  I'll be calling out names, and suddenly there will be a loud "Whoa!!!!!" from all of the kids!

This is another still phtoo of the hummingbird nest after one of the eggs hatched.

One year, we were watching a live eagle cam when the mother eagle returned to the nest with a live frog, which the little eaglets quickly tore from limb to limb and ate!  Ewwwww!  Well, we had to have a "little chat" about the food chain, and how everyone in our classroom also eats other animals any time they eat meat.  Luckily, there were no tears for the poor froggie- just a lot of fascination about what was going on.

This is a still photo from the Southwest Florida Live Eagle Cam.

 Click here to see a Barn Owl Nesting Box Live Animal Cam from Oceanside, CA.  At the the time of the writing, the owls are nesting and will be laying eggs in about 2-3 weeks.  After that, they will be in their eggs for about a month before they hatch.

This is a still photo from the Barn Owl Nesting Box Live Animal Cam.

Click here to see a live animal cam from the African Watering Hole called Pete's Pond!  The only problem with this type of live animal cam that is out in the true wilderness is that you may or may not see any animals when you log on- which is just like being out on a real, live, safari!  So sometimes it is better to view the videos they have captured from the watering hole instead.  Another thing you can do is sign up for alerts via Twitter or some other social media so that you receive a message when a live animal is sighted at the watering hole.  This is the link for the "Pete's Pond" watering hole Facebook page!

This is a still photo of three hippos visiting the "Pete's Pond" watering hole in Botswana, Africa!

I hope that you enjoyed this blog post!  Please visit me on my own blog at, and sign up for the email updates!  You can also see my upcoming presentations here.
Follow me on Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, too!  We even have a new Colors and Shapes DVD coming out in January, 2014!  Available on  Check out a sample below.

Here's the White Song:

Here is the Green Song:

Best wishes for a happy and prosperous new year for you and yours!
Heidi Butkus

Saturday, December 28, 2013

New Year's Eve Masks

The time between Christmas and New Year's is always a "quiet" one for many people. We all relax after the business and madness of December, stretch our legs and let our full bellies groan. Time to rest!

And then suddenly, we remember New Year's Eve.... what shall we do for New Year's Eve? We have put together 30 New Year's Eve Crafts and Activities, to help you along the way if you are celebrating with kids. We also collated 10 wonderful New Year's Eve Traditions from around the world - from Grapes at Midnight, to Marzipan Pigs in the morning!

For me New Year's Eve is all about creating your OWN traditions! So have  a look at the ideas linked up and see which ones will be part of YOUR traditions!

But I digress, I actually wanted to share with you our little Masquerade Masks, that you can make quickly from bits and pieces at home. Perfect for any fancy dress New Year's Eve party with the kids.

They are super easy to make, the kids can go "crazy with the decorations" and love what they made.

You will need card, jeans, glue and decorations.
We cut out a simple template. My daughter wanted a butterfly mask.
My son decided that his was a monster mask and that it needed LOTS of googly eyes.
He then spent the next day and a half, adding little bits here and there when he had some time to fill.
They were both super proud of their masks.
What I love best, is that we actually made this craft after a little "squabble" over a shop bought butterfly mask... there was only ONE butterfly mask that Granny had brought and the girl's cousin ended up getting it. C'est la vie and all that. 
The girl was sad about this, so I told her we would make one (Granny offered to buy another, I said, NO, I want to teach the kids, that buying stuff isn't the solution, but that making your own, can be better and more fun)
Both love their mask and feel that they are superior to the shop bought one.
We had a lovely crafting session and used up some recyclable materials.
Win win.

Happy New Year everyone!

About the Author: Maggy Woodley, is a mum of two and loves all things crafts! She loves nothing better than to recycle and forage for craft materials –making crafts economical, a bit  more environmentally friendly and fun. Maggy also writes at Life at The Zoo about cooking with kids, sciency “stuff” and the odd bit of gardening, as well as at Theatre Books and Movies for well, theatre, book and movies! Red Ted Art, is also now being translated into German, Spanish and Russian for more people to enjoy! Do check them out!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Making Music

It's Scott from Brick by Brick. I love to repurpose materials—use materials in ways different from their intended purpose.

Instruments (Brick by Brick)
Homemade and Purchased Instruments used together

Music is a great way to engage young children in learning and in fun. Lots of posts here on this blog talk about music. Recently I was working with a colleague in assembling information about teaching preschoolers with music. One task I had was to suggest some ways to make instruments. I thought I'd share some of those ideas here.

You can make these instruments for kids to use...or get them to make the instruments for the classroom.

Fill small containers with items to make shakers. Use containers with lids, such as small chip cans, film canisters, water bottles, or small candy containers. Fill the containers halfway with popcorn kernels, dried beans, rice, aquarium gravel, or small beads. Use hot glue gun to seal the lids on the containers; then tape around the lids with colored masking tape.
Shakers (Brick by Brick)
We used Tic-Tac containers for these small shakers.
Making Shakers (Brick by Brick)
Materials to make shakers
Larger Shakers (Brick by Brick)
Decorating paper to wrap around shakers

You can make egg shakers with small plastic eggs and rice to make egg shakers. Glue the eggs together and seal with wide transparent tape.

Paper plates and dried beans or gravel make tambourine shakers. Set a plate on the table and place beans on gravel in the middle. Staple a second paper plate on top of the first plate; position staples close together so beans or gravel will not come out. Seal the edges with masking tape.

Make jingle bell instruments different ways. String jingle bells on chenille craft stems; bend the stems into circles and twist ends together.  Sew jingle bells on lengths of elastic. Sew the elastic ends together to form loops. Drop jingle bells in plastic drink bottles. Seal the lids with glue and masking tape. 

Wrist Bells (Brick by Brick)

If children are making wrist bells, use dice and coded direction for number practice while making instruments.

For drums, use plastic coffee cans with snap-on lids or oatmeal containers with snap-on lids. Use small mailing boxes. (Stuff with newspaper or bubble wrap to keep them sturdy; seal with tape.) Use a variety of pots and pans; offer wooden spoons as drum sticks.
Playing a Drum (Brick by Brick)

Drums (Brick by Brick)

To create rhythm sticks, use wooden spoons or short dowels, unsharpened pencils, or newspaper rolled into tight “sticks.” (Tape to hold the newspaper together.)

Sticks (Brick by Brick)

Dowels (Brick by Brick)

What homemade instruments have you created?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Singing Time: Embracing Appadiction!

Ms. Brigid and her kiddos!
Hello everyone!  Ms. Brigid here, from Merit School of Music 
in Chicago, IL. I have nothing to sell, but lots to share, though there is a special offer for you as a reader of Pre-K and Sharing at the end of the post! Over my many years as a visual artist, musician, and teacher, I have developed niches I especially love: Teaching English through music, Singing games and dances, Music and literacy, Singing books, and Music and technology. It is in the last area that I'll be primarily posting.

It's hard to believe that the first generation of iPad made its debut as recently as April of 2010 and changed life as we know it! By the following September, I had experienced iPads in action in Brian Puerling's pre-K classroom in Chicago. Brian left Chicago Public Schools shortly thereafter, and has since gone on to greatness as the author of Teaching in the Digital Age: Smart Tools
for  Age 3 to Grade 3, but his mindful integration of technology and the resultant opportunities for engaging young children (my people!) in new learning opportunities, ignited a passion and excitement for All Things Apple that still burns brightly.

By August of 2011, I had purchased an iPad2.  The wait was well worth it. The 2nd generation had a front and back facing camera, could record video, and with each passing day there were more available apps to download. I was well on my way to appadiction (©2013 Brigid Finucane – take that, Stephen Colbert!)!

While personal iPad use often tends to be self-directed and entertainment oriented, classroom use demands purposeful support and extensions of student learning. Contemplating options can be paralyzing! After much overthinking, I jumped in. One idea led to another, until at the end of my 1st year, I was confident about it's efficacy as a learning tool, and grateful for the many ways it made/makes my life easier. My music, (virtual) instruments, lesson plans, and whiteboard were/are always with me. I could/can also:
  •  seamlessly incorporate listening lessons, where students describe what they hear.
  • record students singing alone and together - voice or video. (document and assess)
  • enrich foundational vocabulary through targeted flashcards.
  • instantly answer "what's a ___?" query by searching camera or Google images.
  • create rhythmic or notated musical examples swiftly. 
  • make an instant record of who sits where - and who is who!
  • play a gorgeous background for the read-aloud I end class with - and more!
I have discovered - and will share in future posts -  excellent apps to:
  • present orchestra families with thoughtfully curated musical examples.
  • explore world instruments. Some are even linked to YouTubes of musicians playing. 
  •  introduce great musicians and music genres through YouTube videos - and more!
I teach smarter and traveled twenty pounds lighter!  And the experience has only gotten better! The keys: Purpose, practice, passion, and embracing the possibilities. 
©2013 Brigid Finucane:  APP: Decide Now!  (Screenshot)                     

Q: Do the children still use REAL instruments?  
A: Of course! 

Q: Is the iPad out the whole class?  
A: NO! It usually emerges once or twice to support the lesson.

Though iPads are a significant expense, it’s the ups and extras, aka the apps and in-app purchases, which will kill you! There are a million things to buy and download with precious little direction – and that’s the problem! I searched the web for recommendations –becoming ever more weary and frustrated by the “100 best apps for ________” articles that were proliferating like Internet dandelions. In the process, I discovered great resources like  
Cool Mom Tech and Tech & Learning websites. Both tend to be ad-heavy, but  the rewards are many!

Cool Mom Tech is a spinoff of CoolMom Picks, a breezy, free, email-based site along the lines of Angie's List - but for and about kiddos, the grownups that love them (not only moms), issues to think about and support, and, of course, stuff to purchase.

Tech & Learning is also subscription based, with accessible information that does not require an advanced degree in computer science! The blogs are terrific. Look for these writers:  David Andrade, Bob Sprankle, and Vicki Windman.

Paul Shimmons’s blog, iPad and Technology in Music Education and Joanna’s Music Blog (Adventures in music, parenting, and life) by Joanna Sisk-Purvis are highly recommended.

The Ultimate Reward – A Free App App with a Price Alert!
There’s seemingly an app for everything, including free apps, but the 
free App apps Holy Grail is Apple Sliced, also know as App Price Drops.

What makes this app different is the ability to research price history of a paid
app AND set price alerts. Price history research is key. If the last time an app has been updated or had a price drop was two years ago or never, it’s unlikely the price will budge.  If the price history shows fluctuation, there’s a good chance that waiting will pay off. Let’s look at one example: A Jazzy Daywhere I just missed a two-dollar price reduction!

The next step: Research price fluctuations, determine the desired price point, then click on
 Set Price Alert. Enter your email address – then sit back and hope.

When a price alert is met, Apple Sliced sends a cheery email,
Congratulations! The price alert you set for desired app has been reached and it is currently available for $0, with the appropriate link to iTunes.

Tech Tip #1: There is no way to tell how long an app will stay free.
 My recommendation: 1. Download      2. Assess     3. Delete if it doesn’t meet your needs.

Apple Sliced – App Price Drops and similar sites can swiftly populate your iPad, 
and you may find yourself with more apps than you can manage.

Tech Tip #2: Unless you’re among the fortunate few who have 64GB or 128GB iPads,
 it’s easy to hit your space limit, even with iCloud backup. What to do?
My Recommendation: DELETE!  Delete ruthlessly if the app:               
                                                              1. is used infrequently
                                                              2. can be replaced by a better option
                                                              3. is too darn big – think Garage Band 
                                                              4. is a stinker – and there are plenty out there!

Here’s the magic thing about apps: They never go away.*  Apps can be easily reactivated by visiting the Apple Store, finding the desired app under “Purchased,” and clicking the icon. That’s all there is to it!
*Full disclosure: There is a way, actually, but you have to really work at it!

But Wait, There’s More! – Three Apps for the Road
Some people can remember their first kiss. For me, that memory is forever lost - but I can remember my first app, a simple no-frills glockenspiel. Just the bars, ma'am, mallets not included! At the time, there were only a few xylophone / glockenspiel apps – now there are over 150 and counting!  Two of my favorites “xylophone” apps are pictured below:  AwesomeXylophone, and Tap and Sing byStorybots.

Awesome Xylophone exceeds the usual 8-bar range by almost another octave, AND includes sharps and flats. In “musicspeak,” the instrument uses a chromatic scale, like a piano, rather than simply the do – do diatonic scale (Note: Channel Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music singing the Do-Re-Mi song to have a diatonic experience).
Screenshot: Brigid Finucane
FUNFACT: Xylophones are actually made from wooden bars. Glockenspiels and metallophones are made of metal.  Most of the app developers are blithely unaware of this distinction, and lump metal and wood barred instruments together as xylophones. REALLY!

Storybots ranks high because of its amusement factor.  Silly robots, squawk out a tone on “la,” “bum,” note names, or do-re-mi (solmization)
over two octaves. Did I mention the robots roll their eyes, wave their arms and scratch politely to get your attention?  My kiddos go wild when the Storybotcome out to play!

Screenshot: Brigid Finucane

The final app I want to share is one that was recommended by one of my Merit families – and it has turned out to be one of my favorites: Kids Doodle.

This is a lovely, and easy, drawing app which offers different backgrounds colors and the option of a glow/ neon brush– my favorite!  The color changes each time a new line is initiated. Photos can be imported and drawn upon, and all can be saved in a “Gallery” for easy access. Best of all is the “movie” feature. Click on the old-fashioned movie reel symbol, and an animation documenting the evolution of your masterpiece will play! 
Here are some ways I’ve used it:
        1.                                                                           2.
        3.                                                                           4.
1. High & Low Vocal Glides. These can be drawn, then conducted, by student volunteers.
2. Visual Prompts for vocal participation in Remy Charlip's book, “Fortunately.” 
    When something fortunate happens, students call out “Alright” using their high voice.
    When something unfortunate happens, the students respond with a very low “Oh No!”
3. Rhythmic Writing Practice.  Like the vocal glides, the iPad screen is great for student
     practice – without the fuss of markers and excessive erasing time!
4. Song Directions.

                              Jump Josie                                       St. Saens Carnival of the Animals: Kangaroos
5. Drawing to music is another way to connect movement and visual arts to music.
These two student drawings were done after listening then moving to the music. Before the actual drawings are attempted, the whole class "air draws." Paper and markers are then handed out, and the children draw while singing (Jump Josie) or listening to music.  
Don’t forget the gallery walk afterwards! The drawings are left in their places, and students walk around the tables looking at each others’ work. I’ve done this with students as young as three!

Tech Tip #3: Apps come in two flavors – lite (free) and paid.  Both can offer opportunities for “in-app purchases,”  upgrading the app in ways that may be important to you, e.g., deleting banner ads, or offering more desirable options more backgrounds, sound effects, fonts, instruments – you get the idea. 
My recommendation:  The lite version of an app may be all you need. Progress to the paid version only if you use the app frequently, or it offers an important option. I finally upgraded to the paid versions of Kids Doodle because I grew tired of the banner ads.

Thank you so much for joining me on my first foray into blogging! It’s thrilling to be part of this new community.  Please feel free to contact me with any questions you have. I’m here to help!

I hope you’ll visit me next month, where I’ll be sharing books, music and apps to                                     support the Lunar New Year and celebrate winter.

                  Finally, I wouldn’t be the person I am without another important community –
The Children’s Music Network (CMN)an international group of socially conscious musicians, educators, librarians, families, songwriters and good people, who “celebrate the positive power of music in the lives of children by sharing songs, exchanging ideas, and creating community.”
 My friend, Carole Peterson Stephens, who posts on the 16th of each month is a member, as are others on this blog.  Please join us! 

As promised, here is the special offer –
A one-year membership for $35 (regulary $65!) if you join by January 5, 2014.
Enter “BRIGBLOG” in the promotion code box to activate the offer.

The on-line song resources, bi-annual journal, PIO, active list-serve and other resources have provided me with friends and songs from all over the world.
Happy New Year!  

©2013 Brigid Finucane  * 847-213-0713 *

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Quick and easy gifts and a FREEBIE

Christmas is quickly approaching! Do you have all of your parent gifts done? Do you have them wrapped? Do you have student gifts ready?? So much to do with the time quickly passing! Only EIGHT, I repeat, EIGHT days until Christmas! Can you believe it?? But that means only 3 more days until break for mehow about you? Are you already on your Christmas break?
If you are panicking about what to do for parent gifts this year here are a couple quick and easy ideas. 

Handprint Mittens:
·       mitten cutout or pattern
·       Small heart pattern or cut out
·       White paint
·       Paintbrush
·       Cold hands, warm heart print out
·       Hole punch
·       Pipe cleaners
·       Student pictures
·       Markers

·       Students cut out the mittens
·       Students Write: Love, Student 2013 on the back of the mitten
·       Teacher paints their hands and students place them in the mitten.
·       While paint is drying, cut out hearts and cold hands, warm heart sayings.
·       Glue heart in center of hand and saying down by the fingers.
·       Glue the child’s photo in center of the heart.
·       Laminate (optional)
·       Paper punch to of mitten and ring a pipe cleaner through the hole.
Easy as 1 – 2 – 3~

Tissue Paper Wreaths:
·       Student pictures
·       Small white paper plate (or white circle cut outs)
·       Small red circle cut outs (for center of the wreath)
·       Red and green tissue paper cut in small squares/rectangles
·       Glue
·       Pencils
·       Paper Punch
·       Pipe cleaners
·       Scratch paper

·       Students glue the little red circle in the center of the white paper plate/circle
·       Students take scratch paper and put a big glob of glue on it.
·       They take their pencils, wrap a piece of tissue paper around the eraser end of the pencil and dip it in the glue and glue it around the edge of the white circle. Repeat this step until all of the white is filled in with tissue paper interspersing a few red pieces of tissue paper (holly berries)
·       Glue student picture in the center

   Easy as 1 -2 -3

What do you get your students for Christmas?? I used to spend money on books and all kinds of goodies but a few years ago I realized that a pad of paper and a pen was a HUGE HIT! So, that is what I do, I head to the dollar store and find cute pads of paper and fun gel pens. The kids get so excited because they now have their OWN pad of paper to keep notes on. 

Also, do you have your students do anything over break?? For those of you who didn't know, I like to have my students continue to practice certain skills so I send home a Holiday Challenge packet. It is filled with simple activities for them to do at home, to keep their brains busy. The students who return it after break get a special prize...usually a trip to my treasure box.

Holiday Challenge

Click here for a copy of the packet!

Enjoy and I hope you have a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS!! And a HAPPY and SAFE NEW YEAR!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...